Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (5 July) on the killing of Kenyan lawyer Willie Kimani, the client he was representing, Josephat Mwendwa, and his driver Joseph Muiruri:
I was shocked and saddened to hear that Willie Kimani, the lawyer who disappeared some days ago, as well as his client Josephat Mwendwa and driver Joseph Muiruri, have been found murdered. Kimani worked as a human rights defender and lawyer for the non‑governmental organisation International Justice Mission (IJM). He and the two other men were kidnapped immediately after a court appointment.
I appeal to the Kenyan Government to investigate the circumstances of this horrific act quickly and carefully and bring the perpetrators to justice. Where police officers are among the suspects, the investigation should be handed over to independent bodies. There can be no impunity for such crimes. I am concerned about reports that there had already been attempts to intimidate the victims. Human rights defenders like Mr Kimani play an important role in investigating human rights violations against people who are otherwise not in an adequate position to defend themselves. Protecting them is an important task.
The three men disappeared on 23 June 2016 after a court appointment in Machakos County, to the east of Nairobi. The court appointment concerned an incident from April 2015, in which Mwendwa was allegedly stopped for a driving offence and shot by a senior police officer. Mwendwa had appealed for help to human rights lawyer Kimani, who was representing him. On 30 June 2016 the bodies of the three men were found. The Inspector General of the Kenyan police force announced on 2 July 2016 that three police officers were being held in connection with the disappearance and murder of the three men. On 1 July 2016, the chargé d’affaires of the German Embassy in Nairobi, together with other heads of mission, signed a press statement calling for the investigation of the crime and highlighting the role played by human rights defenders in the protection of human rights.