Statement on the discovery of over 30 bodies in the Yala River, Siaya County



Following the public interest in the discovery of over thirty bodies, Amnesty International Kenya has completed a fact-finding mission to the area around River Yala. Contrary to the statement of the Police Spokesperson, we can confirm that the bodies were dumped and retrieved from the river between July 2021 and January 2022, with more bodies being discovered, the latest one this morning. Further investigation is required to reconcile the numbers documented by human rights defenders (31), Yala Hospital Morgue (21), and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (19).

What is not in question is that the 21 bodies at the Yala morgue and the nine buried in a mass grave were found at Dhawa, Dhanu and the Falls over the last six months. All bodies found have evidence of physical torture and drowning. The bodies had been reported to the local police, but there has been a lack of urgency or interest in investigating who has killed these deceased individuals, who are dumping them and why in the Yala river. We are now deeply concerned that the Hospital Mortuary plans to dispose of the 21 bodies by 31 January 2022.

To secure closure, dignity and justice for the deceased persons, relatives searching for loved ones and restore public confidence in the integrity of our law enforcement agencies, five actions are required now;

  1. The Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary must urgently mandate an interdisciplinary comprehensive, public post-mortem for each body and preserve evidence according to international best standards for the forensic identification and preservation of human remains. Given the numbers involved and public interest, this must be carried out by a team of forensic specialists in pathology, radiology, anthropology, odontology, and Government Chemist officials, among others, not just photographers and investigators;
  2. These and other related autopsies must be accompanied by independent forensic pathologists. Amnesty International Kenya and other human rights organisations are willing to fund this. We also call on Kenya National Commission for Human Rights and Independent Policing Oversight Authority to engage directly;
  3. The Attorney General must publicly inform the nation why the State Law Office has not established an impartial coroner service five years after the National Assembly enacted and President assented to the National Coroners Service Act (2017). It is time to assign state investigations to an independent forensic agency;
  4. The Cabinet to ratify and implement the International Convention on Protection of All Enforced Disappearances to enhance national and international accountability. In addition, we demand the establishment of a missing and deceased person database to preserve DNA and other evidence;
  5. The National Assembly and Senate must commission a joint parliamentary enquiry into the rising cases of abductions, forced disappearances and dumping of bodies in our rivers, forests and parks.

Amnesty thanks Haki Africa, local police officers and community leaders for bringing this issue to the national stage. Yala and Siaya must not be a dumping ground for murderers, and these murderers must be swiftly apprehended. Let this horrific saga be the foundational case for deepening the integrity of our criminal justice system. This and finding their killers might honour the departed souls whose bodies showed up this week.

We must do better than this darkness, for all our sakes.

Irũngũ Houghton
Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director

Contact: Rajab Ramadhan 0726987687