The police, without apparent justification, shot and beat people at markets or returning home from work, even before the daily start of the curfew.
According to the US based rights group, police have also broken into homes and shops, extorted money from residents or looted food in locations across the country.
On March 30, following criticism from various groups over abuses in Mombasa city, including by HRW, President Uhuru Kenyatta apologized generally about police use of force, but did not instruct the police to end the abuses.
“It is shocking that people are losing their lives and livelihoods while supposedly being protected from infection,” Otsieno Namwaya, senior Africa researcher at HRW said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Between March 29 and April 14, the rights group conducted phone interviews with 26 witnesses, relatives, and victims of abuses related to the curfew in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale, Busia, Kakamega, Mandera, and Homa Bay counties, revealing severe police abuses in these communities.
In downtown Nairobi, police arrested people on streets, whipping, kicking, and herding them together, increasing the risks of spreading the virus. In the Embakasi area of eastern Nairobi, police officers forced a group of people walking home from work to kneel, then whipped and kicked them, witnesses told HRW.
In Mombasa, on March 27, more than two hours before curfew took effect, police teargassed crowds lining up to board a ferry back home from work, beating them with batons and gun butts, kicking, slapping, and forcing them to huddle together or lie on top of each other.
HRW heard similar accounts from many parts of the country as police violently enforced the curfew over the following days, shooting, beating, and extorting money from people. The violence killed at least six people.
As of Tuesday, Kenya had 296 Covid-19 cases after 15 more people tested positive.
So far, 14,417 people have been tested with 14 deaths reported and 74 cases recovered.