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Arrest of Kenyan Human Rights Defenders

17th September 2010

Kampala  Rights Organisations condemn arbitrary arrest of Kenyan human rights defenders.

Two Kenyan human rights defenders, human rights lawyer, Mr. Mbugua Mureithi, and human rights activist, Mr. Al-Amin Kimathi, were arbitrarily arrested and detained upon arrival in Uganda. They had come to attend the 2nd hearing in the case of the July 2010 bombings. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET) and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) call on the Ugandan authorities to immediately charge or release the two individuals.

The two defenders were arrested upon their arrival in Entebbe on Wednesday 15th September 2010 to attend a court hearing scheduled for the 16th September. Mr. Mureithi, along with Uganda human rights lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, was to represent 12 suspects charged with terrorism in connection with the July bombings. Following their arrest they were initially taken to Kireka, a detention facility managed by the Rapid Response Unit; their current whereabouts have not been confirmed. They have not had access to a lawyer and have to-date not been charged although the 48 hour statutory detention limit is about to expire.

“We are particularly concerned about the safety of these two human rights defenders. The authorities have so far denied their lawyers and other human rights defenders access to them” says Mr. Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive Director of EHAHRDP.

Mr. Mureithi is a widely respected human rights lawyer who has handled a range of key human rights cases, including several cases of individuals detained on terrorism charges in Kenya. He has represented a range of key human rights organizations including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Kenyan section and the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU). Mr. Kimathi is the Executive Coordinator of the Muslim Human Rights Forum (MUHURI), a human rights organization that has taken the lead in monitoring violations committed in the ‘war against terror’, notably numerous rendition cases.

Whilst condemning the July 11 bombings and acknowledging that the Ugandan authorities have the duty to thoroughly and impartially investigate the bombings, we take exception to the arrest of human rights defenders which has a chilling effect on human rights protection in the country and the region and compromises Uganda’s human rights obligations” says Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, Executive Director of FHRI.

The Ugandan authorities have a responsibility to respect key human rights principles, including principles respecting the rights of human rights defenders and basic principles on the role of lawyers and to ensure that these are respected regardless of the context and of the issues involved.

“The Ugandan authorities must ensure therefore that the lawyers of the September 2010 bombing suspects are able to exercise their legitimate and vital work without intimidation, harassment or improper interference, are able to travel freely to visit and represent their clients and do not suffer from or be threatened with prosecution because of this legitimate work” says Mr Mohammed Ndifuna, Chief Executive Officer of HURINET.

We urge the government to uphold the presumption of innocence and bring the two human rights defenders to court and charge them within the constitutionally mandated period or release them.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Sheila Muwanga from FHRI on + 256 414510276, Ms. Laetitia Bader from EHAHRDP on + 256 775 141 756 and Mr. Patrick Tumwine from HURINET on + 256 414 286923.