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Rights Groups Accuse Kenya of Secret Deportations


Human rights groups in Kenya have condemned the Kenyan government for secretly deporting nearly 90 people, including Kenyans, to Somalia and Ethiopia as terrorism suspects. The suspects were arrested at the Kenyan-Somali border, following an Ethiopian-led invasion of Somalia in late December that toppled Somalia's powerful Islamist movement. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from Nairobi.

In a report released Friday, two human rights organizations slammed the Kenyan government for participating in the rendition of terror suspects to secret prisons in Somalia and Ethiopia.

Hassan Omar Hassan, a spokesman for one of the organizations, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, says the Kenyan government broke domestic and international laws by sending the suspects to other countries without any judicial proceedings.

"These deportees had actually surrendered themselves as asylum seekers at the Kenyan border," he said. "Therefore, once they did that there was a certain legal obligation on our part to process them as such. They were held incommunicado for long periods of time and the deportations were illegal."

The chairman of Muslim Human Rights in Nairobi, Al-Amin Kimathi, documented much of the evidence in the report. He says his group closely followed the plight of more than 150 people from nearly 20 countries who were arrested in Kenya after they crossed the border from Somalia two months ago.

Kimathi alleges that after their arrest, the detainees, including Kenyan, British, Canadian, Swedish, and American citizens, were held for weeks without access to lawyers, while U.S. and British officials interrogated them.

The Muslim Human Rights chairman says 88 of the detainees were subsequently designated as suspects with links to the al-Qaida terrorist network and flown out of the country.

"From the moment we came to know about their arrests, we tracked all these people around police stations in Nairobi, in Malindi and around border points," said Kimathi.

"From there, we obtained official airline manifests. We know, and the government confirmed, that 47 of those were released and the rest were all taken to Somalia.," he continued.

Kimathi says his group believes that Kenya also secretly deported about 40 people who were arrested in Kenya in January to Ethiopia because they were thought to be Ethiopian rebels who fought in Somalia alongside the country's Islamist militia.

Muslim Human Rights says it has confirmed that most of the 88 suspects deported to Somalia are now being held in two separate detention facilities in Addis Ababa, where Kimathi says the suspects are being mistreated.

"We got calls from some prisoners, who charged that they were being tortured and pleading for help," he said.

Ethiopian officials have not responded to the allegations made by the human rights groups.

In an interview with The New York Times newspaper, Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the deportations were legitimate because the detainees had been engaged in a guerrilla war against the legitimate government of Somalia.