Use of extrajudicial rendition in Uganda terror case sparks controversy
The ongoing detention of nine Kenyans in Uganda in connection with a July 11 suicide bombing is raising concerns about the use of extrajudicial rendition in Africa as a tool to fight Islamic terrorism.
The plainclothes Kenyan police shoved him into a car, took away his cellphone, hooded him, and drove him to a nearby police camp. Within hours, Mr. Abubakar – nicknamed "Mzungu" because of his pink albino skin – would be transported to Uganda to face charges for the July 11 suicide bombings that killed 76 people in Kampala, Uganda's capital.
Three months later, Abubakar and two dozen other bombing suspects were released for lack of evidence. But the story of his rendition, and the ongoing detention of nine other Kenyans for the bombing, highlights a troubling pattern of extra-judicial abduction and human rights abuses as Africa increases efforts, often at the request of US counterterrorism officials, to combat rising Islamic terrorism.
Abubakar says he was "shocked" when investigators told him that he was about to be charged in the Kampala blasts. "I had never been to the west side of Nairobi, let alone go to Uganda," he said.
When he was released Nov. 30, Abubakar was penniless and feared being rearrested. Donations from Ugandan Muslims helped him get to the Kenyan border. A travel document from the Ugandan government that said he was no longer a terrorism suspect helped him get across. "I was detained for nothing," he said.
Rendition as tool in war against terrorism
While condemned by human rights activists and the European Parliament, and criticized by some US military officials as "counterproductive," renditions are seen by at least 28 US allies as a necessary weapon in the battle against terrorism. Estimates of the number of renditions since the US-led war on terror began after 9/11 are educated guesses, but some human rights organizations put the number over 1,000, and the British human rights group Cageprisoners estimates that 88 men, women, and children have been subjected to extrajudicial transfers from Kenya as of 2007.
"This is happening on a global scale," says Asim Qureshi, executive director of Cageprisoners, which tracks renditions and treatment of terrorism suspects at detention centers such as Guantánamo Bay and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. "What is interesting about Uganda is that their efforts are quite open. I don't think any help is being given by the Kenyan government in this case."