Amnesty International voiced its concern yesterday over "a growing disregard" for human rights in Kenya, the east African country that is considered one of the United States' closest friends in Africa.

The human rights organization, in a report released yesterday, charged that hundreds of cases of torture, detention without trial and unfair trial have come to light in the past 16 months and that at least two men have died in police custody.

The Kenyan Foreign Ministry denied allegations of systematic torture, according to an Associated Press report from London, but acknowledged that two policemen have been arrested "for acts of torture" and face possible prosecution. A Kenyan Embassy spokesman here declined to comment on the report.

The Amnesty report, entitled "Torture, Political Detention and Unfair Trials," comes as the House prepares to vote next month on a foreign aid bill that, for the first time, makes a portion of U.S. aid to Kenya conditional on an improvement in its human rights record.

"The Kenyan government seems to have adopted a deliberate program to silence or intimidate its political opponents," Curt Goering, deputy director of Amnesty International USA, said at a press conference here yesterday.

"In the last 16 months, hundreds of Kenyan citizens, including university professors, businessmen, journalists, lawyers and politicians, have been arrested," he said. "At least two people have died in police custody; others charge they were tortured into false confessions."

Kenya is sub-Saharan Africa's second largest recipient of U.S. aid, receiving about $53 million this year. It has been a one-party state since June 1982, and President Daniel arap Moi has survived one coup attempt since taking power in 1978.

Although Kenyan law stipulates that anyone arrested must be brought before a court or released within 24 hours, for over a year the authorities have "repeatedly ignored this requirement", the report stated.

Although torture is forbidden in the Kenyan constitution, the report said, "Amnesty International has received numerous reports that people arrested on political grounds are tortured, particularly those suspected of involvement with Mwakenya . . . a clandestine socialist opposition organization."

These reports gave detailed descriptions of torture methods, including immersion in water, starvation and beatings, the report said.

The Kenyan Foreign Ministry statement yesterday contradicted the Amnesty International report but never mentioned it by name. The statement said that 11 persons are lawfully detained and 69 others have been convicted of seeking to overthrow the government.