NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s justice minister said the rendition of Kenyans to Uganda to face charges of involvement in bomb attacks in Kampala should not have occurred and that parts of the judicial system had failed.
Mutula Kilonzo comment’s to Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday supported the view of two high court judges who have criticised the transfer of several suspects to Uganda.
“It is a failure of institutions because it should not happen. The judge in many respects is dead right because if you believe a Kenyan citizen has committed an offence, put him through the process,” Kilonzo said late on Wednesday.
Judge Mohamed Wasarme said on Tuesday the transfers flouted the rights of the Kenyan citizens.
On Thursday a high court judge labelled the arrest, detention and removal of one of the Kenyan suspects as illegal.
A total of 38 people, including Ugandans, Kenyans and Somalis, have been charged with terrorism over the twin bomb blasts in the Ugandan capital that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final in July.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission, a civil society group, says 13 Kenyans were illegally transferred to Uganda.
Rights groups said Uganda had not lodged formal extradition requests, that arrest warrants for the Kenyan suspects had not been issued in Kenya and the transfers amounted to kidnapping.
The minister said he was not aware of any rendition requests.
“It is possible that Uganda may have requested for these people. The issue has not arisen anywhere I could have commented,” Kilonzo said.
“I do not agree with it (renditions), I have never agreed with it.” Kilonzo said.
Kenya drew fierce criticism in 2007 for the rendition of scores of Somalis to Ethiopia after a U.S.-backed invasion of the anarchic Horn of Africa nation that routed an Islamist administration deemed a regional security threat by Washington.
Reprieve, a UK-based legal rights group, said worrying new patterns of counter-terrorism were emerging in east Africa.
“If it’s true Kilonzo was unaware of the renditions, then what we’re talking about is a rogue police force ... that operates outside all chains of command,” said Clara Gutteridge, a deputy legal director at Reprieve.
Human rights campaigners said the latest renditions were a slap in the face for Kenya’s new basic law, which aimed to strengthen civil liberties, and warned of mounting anger and fear among the Muslim community.
Omar Hassan, Commissioner for Security Sector Reforms at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, said Uganda was serving as a “holding pen” for terrorism suspects.
He drew parallels with Guantanamo, America’s detention facility in Cuba.
“Guantanamo is a holding facility. It intimidates, tries to harass, to scare. It installs fear. That is partly the strategy,” Hassan told Reuters.
Kilonzo said the rule of law had to be followed.
“For heaven’s sake if a Kenyan has committed a crime, either you follow extradition procedures, or you prosecute him in Kenya to the satisfaction of the law,” he said.