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International Watchdogs Criticize Uganda Terror Investigation

Human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi, (File).

Human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi, (File).

International rights groups call for Uganda to release Kenyan human-rights activist held on terrorism charges or provide details of the charges

International human-rights groups have called for Uganda to release a Kenyan human-rights activist held on terrorism charges or provide details of the charges.

Kenyan Al-Amin Kimanthi was arrested on September 15 along with a Kenyan lawyer, who was released three days later. But Kimanthi was held for six days and then charged with terrorism and murder.

Human Rights Watch researcher Ben Rawlence says Kimanthi traveled to Uganda to observe the hearing of six Kenyans facing terrorism charges. "He is a Kenyan human-rights activist who was actually raising questions about due process and about how the Ugandans were handling this case," Rawlence says. "And it seems as though in the absence of any details of anything that he has done wrong, it seems as though Uganda and Kenya just decided to lock him up as a way of keeping him quiet."

He says the details of the charges against him have not been made clear. The charges relate to a July bombing in Kampala that killed 79 people. The Somali insurgent group al-Shebaab has claimed responsibility for the attack on the night of the World Cup final.

38 people have been charged in connection with the attack, and Rawlence says at least 13 of those are Kenyans who have been transferred to Uganda unfairly.

"No Ugandan court has issued an arrest warrant or a request for extradition for those Kenyan suspects," Rawlence said. "It seems as though that discussion happened informally and they decided these were people they wanted between them and the Kenyans and they were handed over. So there has been no proper procedure."

This week Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International sent a letter to the Ugandan and Kenyan governments criticizing the manner of extradition and calling for action to be taken in the case of human-rights activist Kimanthi.

Uganda State Minister for Internal Affairs Matia Kasaija says the human-rights groups have no right to criticize Uganda's investigation into the bombing. "Who has violated the more human rights, the one has come and killed my 70 Ugandans or someone who we have arrested and kept in jail for two days?" Kasaija said.

He says those charged are being held in a secure prison and will receive a fair trial. He said the full nature of the charges against them will be made public once the investigation is complete.