Four prominent human rights defenders were returned to Kenya today shortly after their arrival at Entebbe airport, despite having secured a meeting with the Chief Justice of Uganda. They were due to meet with Justice Benjamin Odoki tomorrow, to discuss the case of Mr. Al-Amin Kimathi, the Kenyan human rights defender being held in Uganda on terrorism charges.
The four deported are Mr. Samwel Mohochi, a trustee of the Kenya National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders; Mr. Hassan Omar Hassan, from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR); Mr. Hussain Khalid, from Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI); and Mr. Muhdhar Khitamy, chairman of the Coast province branch of SUPKEM (the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims). The eight other members of the legal delegation, which included two British nationals, have been allowed to enter the country.
After being detained for several hours by immigration officers this morning, Mr. Mohochi, Mr. Omar Hassan, Mr. Khalid and Mr. Khitamy were required to sign deportation papers and just after 2pm they were escorted on to a Kenya Airways flight returning to Nairobi under the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Act of 1999. No other official explanation has yet been given for their removal.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda), EHAHRD-Net focal point, are deeply concerned by the apparently arbitrary decision to deport four prominent human rights lawyers and activists, despite being invited by a senior judicial figure. This deportation is only the latest in a series of similar actions by the Ugandan authorities. In December 2010, Clara Gutteridge, a British lawyer, was detained and deported when she arrived in Entebbe to observe Mr. Kimathi’s bail hearing.
“We are appalled by the treatment received by these four human rights defenders, including one of our network members,” said Mr. Hassan Shire Sheikh, chairperson of EHAHRD-Net. “The Ugandan government’s actions only serve to further highlight the irregularities surrounding Mr. Kimathi’s case.” Speaking from Nairobi, Mr. Mohochi said that the deportation was “a side show issue” and “should not distract from the core objectives of the delegation.”
Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana, Executive Director, said: “Whereas the State has the obligation to determine the right to enter Uganda, we feel that this action without offering the persons concerned the right to be heard leaves a lot to be desired.”
EHAHRD-Net and FHRI call on the Ugandan government to allow human rights defenders to carry out their work, including the provision of legal assistance and to attend public hearings, proceedings and trials, without undue restrictions and in line with international standards.
Amnesty International, EHAHRD-Net and FHRI have repeatedly raised concerns about the continued incarceration and persecution of Mr. Kimathi and restrictions on human rights defenders’ ability to carry out their work. He was arrested, along with Kenyan lawyer Mr. Mbugua Mureithi, on 15 September 2010 after the two travelled from Kenya to Uganda to observe a hearing of six Kenyans charged with terrorism in connection with the July 2010 bomb attacks in Kampala, which killed over 76 people who were watching the World Cup final. Mr. Mureithi was released after three days and deported to Kenya. Mr. Kimathi, who heads the Muslim Human Rights Forum (MHRF) in Kenya, was held incommunicado for six days before being charged with terrorism and murder on 21 September 2010. MHRF has taken the lead in monitoring violations committed in the ‘war against terror’, notably numerous rendition cases.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Hassan Shire Sheikh, Chairperson of EHAHRD-Net on +256 772 753 753 or [email protected].
Ms. Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy officer, EHAHRDP at [email protected] or +256 312 265 824 or +256 778 921 274.
Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana, Executive director, FHRI at [email protected] or +256 414 510 263/498.