NAIROBI, August 1 – Top international human rights lobby groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch together with a number of local rights groups are calling on the government to conduct independent investigations into the alleged unlawful transfer of terror suspects from Kenya.,
In a statement, the 11 organisations claim 140 people who are nationals of at least 17 different countries, including Kenya, were arrested by authorities here between December 2006 and February 2007 and taken across borders.
The organisations said the suspects were taken to countries including Somalia, Ethiopia and the United States illegally under international law.
The rights groups claim most of those arrested had fled fighting in Somalia and were detained for weeks without charge and some tortured and denied access to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
They have cited the case of Kenyan Mohamed Abdulmalik, who is currently being held at the US Guantánamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.
“Nothing was heard of Abdulmalik until 26 March 2007, when the US Department of Defence issued a press statement announcing Abdulmalik’s detention at Guantánamo Bay,” they said.
“At the time of Abdulmalik’s detention, the practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’ – whereby foreign “terror suspects” are sent to third countries where they are at serious risk of torture — was widely known,” their statement added.
The human rights groups want Kenya to name those who are being held in third countries, and call on those governments to either release them immediately or institute charges.
The organisations claim that all the arrested individuals were detained in several police stations in Kenya and were held for weeks without charge and tortured.
They further alleged that some of the detainees were also beaten by police and forced to undress before being photographed.
“The detainees were denied the right to challenge their detention, denied access to lawyers and not allowed any contact with their families. They were not allowed to claim asylum and were denied access to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is their right,” their statement read.
According to their statistics, between January and February last year, at least 85 of these people were unlawfully transferred – without recourse to any legal process – to Somalia and then on to Ethiopia.
It is noted that more than 40 people were still detained incommunicado and in secret in Ethiopia at the end of last year but some since been released.
“Publicly, the Kenyan government has maintained that no Kenyan citizen was unlawfully transferred to Somalia, Ethiopia or any other third country. This is despite clear evidence to the contrary,” the organisations averred.
They also insist that the government must ensure that the results of any investigations that lead to any perpetrators of human rights violations be held to account.
The lobby groups also want the government to publicly identify those still being held in third countries, along with their precise location, and call on the governments holding them to either release them immediately or charge them with a recognizable criminal offence.