The deportation from Kenya of the human rights investigator Clara Gutteridge raises concerns about Kenya’s openness to scrutiny, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and Human Rights Watch said.
Gutteridge, a British citizen, was investigating counterterrorism-related rights violations in Kenya and Uganda as part of a fellowship for the Open Society Justice Initiative, and was entering the country at the invitation of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. She was detained on May 10, 2011, at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport when she tried to enter Kenya from Tanzania, where she had been investigating the arrests of Tanzanian suspects in the July 11, 2010 bombings in Kampala. Gutteridge was held overnight at the airport and deported to the United Kingdom on May 11. According to a document delivered to Gutteridge and signed by Immigration Minister Otieno Kagwang, Gutteridge was deported because her “presence in Kenya is contrary to national interest.” The order was dated March 22, 2011.
“As yet, the government has offered no convincing explanation about Clara Gutteridge’s deportation, raising concerns that she was sent away simply to silence a critical voice,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If Gutteridge’s deportation is linked to her investigations into the rights of terrorism suspects, this action by the Kenyan government contradicts the principles of openness and rule of law that should govern a democracy.”
Gutteridge was similarly deported from Uganda in December 2010 while working as an investigator for Reprieve, a British nongovernmental organization that provides international legal assistance to prisoners. Gutteridge had attempted to enter Uganda to monitor the bail hearings of eight Kenyans, seven of whom had been illegally extradited to Uganda in July and August and are being tried in Uganda in conjunction with the Kampala bombings. The accused also include a Kenyan human rights activist, Al-Amin Kimathi, arrested in September 2010, when he visited Uganda to attend a court hearing for the July 11 suspects. He was subsequently also charged with terrorism and remains in detention.
Similarly, in April 2011, four Kenyan human rights defenders, including a member of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, were refused entry to Uganda for meetings on the same cases and returned to Nairobi within hours of their arrival at Entebbe airport.
“States that are truly committed to respect for human rights should allow rights defenders to investigate suspected violations, provide legal counsel and observe public hearings,” said Hassan Shire Sheikh, executive director of the EHAHRDP. “The Kenyan and Ugandan governments should stop obstructing their lawful work.”