Human rights leaders have condemned Kenya’s decision to deport the South Sudanese spokesman of opposition leader Riek Machar, who has called the deportation a violation of the Geneva Convention.
The Daily Nation in Nairobi said that Machar, head of the opposition SPLM-IO and the former South Sudanese vice president in exile, appealed to Kenyan authorities on the grounds that James Gatdet Dak is a registered United Nations refugee, but to no avail.
The UN OHCHR said it is “deeply concerned” about Dak’s safety, adding in its statement that his return to South Sudan represents the violation of a “cornerstone of international refugee law.”
Machar, in the statement sent to news outlets, expressed his dismay that the Kenyan government would place Dak’s life in danger. Amnesty International shared that concern in condemning Nairobi’s decision, adding that lawyers sent by UN OHCHR to act on behalf of Dak in his refugee status – he has been a recognized refugee in Kenya since last year – were turned back by airport immigration authorities.
“Gatdet’s deportation is Kenya’s latest attack on refugees’ right to safety and it places Gatdet at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, in the Friday statement.
The agency called Dak’s deportation a “chilling assault on refugee rights.”
Gatdet was arrested by Kenyan authorities at his Nairobi home in Wednesday, apparently in connection with a Facebook post press release approving of the United Nations decision to remove Kenyan Lt. General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, the former head of UNMISS, following a report on the Juba attacks in July.
The UNMISS decision touched off a diplomatic storm as an outraged Kenya announced it was bringing home more than 1,000 troops in the UNMISS peacekeeping force and quitting the IGAD peace process.
In the aftermath, Dak was forced onto a flight on Thursday afternoon and flown to South Sudan’s capital Juba, the human rights group said. He remains in the custody of South Sudan’s National Security Service and South Sudanese officials, where he is under “serious torture,” the South Sudan News Agency said.
Image: James Gatdet Dak