Kenyan police have detained two critics of South Sudan’s government, according to their attorney and rights groups who say the two are at risk of being deported.
South Sudanese lawyer Dong Samuel is a human rights advocate and member of the Human Rights and Justice Committee for South Sudan’s opposition. Aggrey Idri chairs the opposition’s Humanitarian Affairs committee.
Samuel was last seen late Monday, while Idri was last seen Tuesday morning.
Their attorney, Eddy Orinda, believes the men are being held at Nairobi police headquarters, but says he does not know much more than that.
“No one is saying if they are being charged with anything. No one is giving any reason over a possible deportation order that we have heard about. And so, we are in the dark,” said Orinda.
Human Rights Watch South Sudan researcher Jonathan Pedneault says the situation is concerning.
“So we have legitimate concerns that the deportation, first of all, would be unlawful, but those two individuals may also be mistreated upon their return to South Sudan,” said Pedneault.
Samuel is a registered refugee in Kenya, so HRW and Amnesty International argue that deporting him would violate international law. Amnesty told VOA in written comments that, “Given the serious risk of torture both would face in South Sudan, their deportation would also violate Kenya’s obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture.”
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei denied knowledge of the detentions.
“I have not heard about them being arrested,” said Makuei. “I know that they are in Nairobi.”
Requests for a response from Kenyan police and the interior minister went unanswered.
If Samuel and Idri are deported, it would not be the first time Kenya has sent back South Sudanese dissidents. In November, opposition spokesperson James Gatdet was returned to Juba, despite his refugee status. He has subsequently been held without charge at the National Security Service headquarters.
Pedneault says since an outbreak of violence in Juba in July, there has been an increase in crackdowns on dissidents.
“I think it is quite clear that the South Sudanese authorities, the South Sudan government, right now are trying to solidify and fortify their position by cracking down on the opposition and independent media,” said Pedneault.
Orinda says he wants the Kenyan government to issue a statement specifying whether it had a role in the disappearance and possible deportation of the two individuals.