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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bereavement-information-kenya-murder-manslaughter-and-suspicious-deaths/bereavement-information-kenya-murder-manslaughter-and-suspicious-deaths
1. Post mortems (autopsies)
Post mortems are a legal requirement in Kenya for all murder or manslaughter deaths. Payment or guarantee of payment for the post mortem is usually required before it is carried out and these costs often fall to the family or next of kin. In some cases the State may agree to meet the costs of the case if the case is of interest to the police.
If you (or any family or friends) are not present in Kenya, the Kenyan Authorities may ask the British High Commission to provide a passport photograph to help confirm the identification of the deceased. The Kenyan authorities may ask you to provide written authority for the post mortem to proceed or for the British High Commission to identify the deceased. Once a post mortem has been conducted you will need to provide written permission for the deceased to be released for burial or repatriation. A burial permit is then issued.
Post mortem reports can be shared with you, if you would like a copy, but timescales can vary from reports being shared quickly to up to two years or more, depending on the circumstances surrounding the death. The reports are often available from the pathologist, but if the death is suspicious you may have to make a request through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You will need to speak to your consular officer so that the British High Commission can assist with this request.
If reports are required for a coroner’s inquest in England or Wales, the Coroner can request copies of post-mortem reports and police reports from the Kenyan Authorities via the FCO in London. However, it can take many months for Kenyan authorities to release the reports.
2. Organ retention
During a post mortem organs (or samples) can be removed for testing and may or may not be returned on completion of the post mortem. You/the next of kin are not normally informed if organs are retained for testing but if they are retained for, this would be indicated on the post mortem report.
You should appoint an international funeral director to help with repatriation. Funeral directors in Kenya are fully equipped to carry out repatriation and will provide the required documentation for international carriage. The original burial permit, embalming certificate and copy of the death certificate are required to transport the deceased, although some airlines will require a copy of the deceased’s passport. The funeral director is responsible for ensuring the correct documentation is in place. The burial permit and register of death form are issued once the cause of death has been established and is issued by the doctor or pathologist.
There can be delays in obtaining a death certificate from the local authorities but funeral directors are usually able to obtain the death certificate in time for repatriation. Please note that issuing a death certificate can be a lengthy process.
Embalming is required for repatriation. Sometimes local embalming methods mean that the full range of tests cannot be done if a second post mortem is requested. Embalming procedures may have an impact on the efficacy of any subsequent post mortems (for example, if one is ordered by a Coroner in England or Wales).
4. Burial and Cremation
Local cremation is relatively easy to arrange but facilities are basic. There are two options: The City Council facility (Nairobi) or by arrangement with the Hindu Council. The City Council facility is enclosed but the Hindu council cremates on an outdoor funeral pyre. There is no garden of remembrance or formal location for ashes to be scattered or kept but, with permission, your funeral director or the British High Commission can help make arrangements for you to scatter the ashes.
Funeral directors can also help you arrange burial plots and the required paperwork. Mortuary facilities are available around Kenya but facilities are limited in more rural locations.
5. Police Investigations
Timeframes for police investigations vary and can take months if not years to conclude. The British High Commission can help make requests via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be kept up to date on any ongoing investigations. However, while we can make this request the Kenyans are under no legal obligation to respond and it can take some time for an official reply to be received.
If the case is closed and no one is found guilty, but you consider the death to be suspicious, you should appoint a local lawyer to advise you on how to raise your concerns with the Kenyan authorities. However, without new evidence the case is unlikely to be reopened.
6. Local Judicial Process
The judicial process can be very slow. Once someone is arrested and charged it could take anything up to two years before the trial commences. All offences in Kenya can be bailed regardless of the perpetrator’s plea. You do not need to be involved in the prosecution as the state would do it, but if you were a witness you would be called to give evidence.
You may wish to engage the services of a local lawyer to represent your interests, legitimately make enquiries on your behalf and give you accurate legal advice about the Kenyan judicial system and how to raise any concerns.
In murder cases the death penalty is officially still an option although there is a moratorium on its actual use. The UK government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We believe its use undermines human dignity, there is no proof of its deterrent effect, and errors made in its use are irreversible. Where there is a risk of the death penalty being imposed and carried out for the crime under investigation, the UK will seek assurances that anyone found guilty would not face the death penalty. Provision of UK assistance and related information may not be provided to the overseas authority if inadequate or no assurances are received.
7. Other useful information
- There are no local support organisations, legal aid or compensation schemes that we are aware of.
- Read more information about the procedures following a death in Kenya.
Neither the British High Commission nor HM Government accept legal liability with regards to the content of this information sheet.