Kenya deports UK human rights lawyer

Monday May 16 2011

The orders declaring Ms Gutteridge who was investigating the human rights abuses in Kenya jointly with the KNCHR were signed by Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang. FILE

The orders declaring Ms Gutteridge who was investigating the human rights abuses in Kenya jointly with the KNCHR were signed by Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang. FILE 

By BERNARD NAMUNANE and Agencies

The government has deported a British lawyer who was investigating human rights abuses in Kenya and other countries in the region.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the British High Commission confirmed the deportation of Ms Clara Gutteridge on grounds that her activities were against national interests.

The orders declaring Ms Gutteridge who was investigating the human rights abuses in Kenya jointly with the KNCHR were signed by Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang.

“She was given a letter signed by Kajwang on March 21 stating that her presence in the country was contrary to national interests,” said KNCHR’s Omar Hassan Omar.

The British High Commission’s spokesman John Bradshaw confirmed the deportation and said they assisted her to get back to the United Kingdom.

“We are aware of the incident and we offered her consular assistance as we do to all British citizens,” he said.

Asked if they were satisfied with the reasons for her deportation, Mr Bradshaw said: “That is for the Kenyan authorities to say.”

On Monday, Immigration ministry officials could not give an answer to inquiries by the Nation. Instead, they demanded a written request since “there are many meetings going on.”

Ms Gutteridge is a fellow of the Open Society Justice Initiative and was in Kenya on the invitation of the KNCHR to conduct research on national security and human rights abuses in east Africa.

She had been in the region for a month documenting cases of rendition, torture, secret detentions and abuses of due process.

“Clara was undertaking research on counter-terrorism, renditions and other forms of human rights abuses,” said Mr Omar.

Recounting her experience in London, she said she was given deportation orders after returning to the country from Tanzania.

“I had left Nairobi to go to Tanzania. On my way back in I went to the immigration and the man said 'can you just come into the office for a minute.’ I went into the office and gave them my passport. After about five minutes a group of them just came out and said 'you’re under arrest, come with us,’” she said.

The immigration officials took all of her belongings and allowed her to make one phone call. She was detained overnight and was put on a flight the next day. Gutteridge says she was not given a chance to contest the order.

“The immigration officers gave me absolutely no reason at all for what was going on. They wouldn’t answer any of my questions at all. When I left I was finally served with a deportation order which said that my presence was not conducive to national interests,” she said.

Kenya has come under scrutiny for the methods it has employed to combat the rising threat of terrorism in the region. The United States has provided Kenya with millions of dollars worth of anti-terrorism support and training over the past decade and Kenya has, in turn, adopted some of the United States’ more controversial tactics.

One Kenyan citizen, Mohamed Abdulmalik, has been detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2007 for his suspected role in a 2002 bombing on the Kenyan Coast.

More recently, Kenya has come under fire for employing extraordinary rendition to illegally transfer a number of its citizens to Uganda in connection with the Kampala bombings in July of last year.

A Kenyan activist who tried to visit the suspects in Uganda was also accused of terrorism and has been imprisoned since September.

Gutteridge says her early research indicates that Kenya has been engaged in these practices for at least the past decade.

“My concern is that the agencies conducting these investigations don’t have even a basic understanding of the rules of evidence. So they are not conducting the investigations in a way which could really end in a legitimate process,” she said.

The Kenyan government spokesman could not be reached for further comment.