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Kenya, Uganda face rights queries in terror fight
Thursday, November 29, 2012
by JUDIE KABERIA
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NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 29 – Kenya is struggling to counter terrorism which lately has become almost a weekly dose of grenades hurled at people in public places. Not even the churches considered to be the most secure in the presence of God have been spared in the series of attacks linked to terrorism.
Despite these attacks, the fears and shock, Kenya is caught between a rock and a hard place. In a report done by civil society groups, Kenya and Uganda have been accused of disregarding human rights in their heightened efforts to fight terrorism and protect their citizens.
“Counter terrorism tactics and operations in East Africa have led to a variety of human rights violations. Governments in the region have cited the need to fight terrorism as a pretext to crack down on political opposition, human rights defenders, and lawful expressions of dissent,” a report by Open Society Justice Initiative and East African civil society groups asserts.
In what it refers to as ‘a disturbing pattern of human rights abuses’ the report further warns Britain and the United States in their support to Kenya and Uganda to fight terrorism to ensure they do not engage in human rights abuses.
The report done specifically to investigate the 11, July 2010 World Cup bombing in Kampala accuses the four countries of mishandling suspects in the way they arrested, detained, tortured and quizzed them over the attack that left 70 people dead.
“The counter terrorism actions that followed were marred by human rights abuses. Kenya arbitrarily detained at least 12 Ugandan and Kenyan nationals; allegedly exposed them to, and/or threatened them with, physical abuse; and unconstitutionally rendered them to Uganda,” the report documents.
It further details that Ugandan authorities arrested over 30 people after the bombing but has denied that such abuses ever took place.
“Many of the bombing suspects allege that Ugandan authorities engaged in physical abuse, unlawful detention, and denied them their due process rights. The bombing suspects also allege that the United Kingdom took part in their interrogations, and that US officials physically and mentally abused them.”
After the attacks Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.
The report further digs into the response by Kenyan police to address the perennial attacks linked to al-Shabaab in which it accuses the security enhancers of abusing human rights of those perceived to be behind the attacks.
According to the investigations, there are ‘unexplained killings and disappearances of terrorist suspects’ and ‘a trend of indiscriminately focusing on specific communities,’ which the government of Kenya has to think how it will address to ensure human rights are respected.
The civil society groups want Kenya, Uganda, Britain and United States to carry further investigations on the 2010 World Cup bombing over alleged human rights abuses. They also want the Western countries to detail the role of their security in the interrogations on the bombing.
They are further asking the West to make their procedures public especially where host countries they are working with disregard respect for human rights.
Since Kenya deployed the Kenya Defence Forces to Somalia to silence Al-Shabaab, the country has been subjected to serious security threats after several attacks that have left many people dead, others injured and property destroyed.
It has forced Kenyan businesses to cough extra money to purchase security gadgets and also employ extra security personnel to screen people entering their premises all in the name of responding to terrorism.
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