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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
Jail deaths 'disaster for Kenya'
A warden guards prisoners in a crowded prison cell in Meru, Kenya
Most of the inmates at Meru are on remand
A Kenyan human rights group has said the death of 56 inmates at a jail in the eastern town of Meru this year amounts to a "national disaster".

Autopsies carried out on 12 of the dead show that all but one met violent deaths, Evans Wafula of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit told the BBC.

The group wants the suspension of the national head of prisons and an apology to the victims' families.

Officials have suggested that the deaths in jail are due to overcrowding.

We feel that the conditions in the prisons are just like a ticket to the graveyard
Evans Wafula
Independent Medico-Legal Unit

But Mr Wafula rejected the claim, citing evidence from the bodies of 12 inmates - access was not given to the bodies of the other 44.

"Most of the prisoners - apart from one - died of blunt-object injuries," he said on Wednesday.

The injuries, he said, were systematic and most bodies had abdominal injuries which could not be "attributed to overcrowding at all".

The deaths are believed to have happened at intervals since January, with the latest occurring last week.

'Slave labour'

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit called for the immediate suspension of the commissioner of prisons, Abraham Kamakil, and a public apology to relatives.

Mr Wafula said prison problems were not confined to Meru alone.

In the "appalling" conditions in jails nationwide, inmates lacked access to basic health care, he said.

Prisoners across Kenya were, he continued, being used as slave labourers, some being made to work on farms by senior government officials.

"We feel that the conditions in the prisons are just like a ticket to the graveyard," the Kenyan human rights activist concluded.

The two most senior prison officials at Meru were suspended early in October after the death of seven inmates, five of whom were found to have been beaten.

Kenyan prison bosses suspended
04 Oct 04  |  Africa
Kenya prisoners die in tiny cell
28 Sep 04  |  Africa
Kenya prison conditions slammed
29 Sep 04  |  Africa
Inside Kenya's 'worst' prison
04 Mar 03  |  Africa


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