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Lawyers Seek Release of Missing South Sudanese Activist

FILE - A sign is seen outside the East African Court of Justice. The Pan African Lawyers Union filed a complaint at the EACJ against the Kenyan and South Sudanese governments in connection with the disappearance of South Sudanese refugee Morris Mabior. (Photo by Asraji Mvungi)

A group of African lawyers is calling for the release of a South Sudanese rights activist allegedly taken by security forces last month from his family's home in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

The family of Morris Mabior believes he was forcibly deported to South Sudan, where he was an outspoken critic of official abuses and corruption. Both South Sudanese and Kenyan authorities have refused to comment on his alleged abduction, raising fears for his safety.

The Pan African Lawyers Union has filed a complaint against the Kenyan and South Sudanese governments in connection with the disappearance of Mabior.

The union's chief executive officer, Donald Deya, told VOA a complaint was filed at the East African Court of Justice for the unlawful abduction and rendition of the South Sudanese refugee.

"So for us, what we are going for is a court order for the same that he be produced immediately and be medically examined and that he be released and if not, he should be immediately charged if there is any offense of which they are holding him, immediately be charged in a court of law where his rights will be able to be protected," Deya said.

Mabior was allegedly taken from his home in Nairobi on February 4 by men dressed in Kenya's police uniform.

His sister-in-law, Ajak Mayen, said Mabior was targeted because he criticized the South Sudanese security sector and bad governance.

"He was talking about human rights violations and all these corruption cases, especially how the national security is running their affairs, the disappearances of people, the assassinations and all the corruption," Mayen said. "He started mentioning names and you know we don't have that freedom of expression. So, if you expose someone in power, they will immediately come after you."

Local and international human rights organizations have condemned Mabior's disappearance and urged authorities to locate him.

Rights groups have also accused Kenya of violating refugee rights and U.N. and African Union conventions that call for the protection of people fleeing conflict and persecution.

Deya said Kenya and South Sudan violated the rights of the asylum-seeker.

"He was in refuge in Kenya because he was being threatened back home by the national security service. So unfortunately, at the beginning of this month, in a joint operation of Kenyan and South Sudanese security, they were able to abduct him from Nairobi and most probably delivered him to the Blue House in Juba," Deya said.

Blue House is a detention center run by South Sudan's National Security Service. Human Rights Watch says it is a place where critics of the government are held indefinitely, tortured and forcibly disappeared.

Mayen said the family believes her brother-in-law is still held there.

"Someone has reached out to us that he had met him during interrogation, and he was asking about his wife," Mayen said. "He has left one of the wives here in Nairobi and reached out to me to ensure that he is safe, though he was tortured on the first days when he was taken to Juba but I believe he is still in the Blue House.”

Mayen said her family has contacted Kenyan police to inquire about Mabior's disappearance but has yet to receive an answer.

Kenyan and South Sudanese officials declined to respond to VOA requests for comment on Mabior's disappearance.