Kenyan Human Rights Defender Arrested in Wake of Kampala Attack

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A police post in Kampala, Uganda(c) Amnesty International

As the world was watching every dribble, pass, and shot of the World Cup final match, a bomb exploded in Kampala, Uganda killing 76 people. Now, Uganda is making matters worse by arbitrarily arresting and detaining Al-Amin Kimanthi, the head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum (MHRF) in Kenya.  Kimanthi was arrested on September 15 as he flew to Uganda to observe the trial of six other Kenyans on trial for the bombing. He was charged with terrorism and murder six days later.

Uganda and Kenya both have not followed international standards nor human rights law in their handling of Kimanthi’s case.  Beginning with his arbitrary arrest and six day detention without being charged, Kimanthi’s charge sheet has no evidence linking him to the bomb attack. Furthermore, Kenya has ignored his right to habeas corpus in his incognito transfer to Uganda.  Both Kenya and Uganda have failed to respect extradition procedures which require reciprocal warrants of arrests in both countries and judicial hearings.

It seems as though Kimanthi was arbitrarily arrested for carrying out his legitimate human rights work – providing legal support to the suspects charged in connection with the bomb attack.

Amnesty is calling on the Ugandan government to release Kimanthi or specify the charges against him. The perpetrators of the July, 2010 bombing in Kampala must be brought to justice, but this must not come at the expense of international human rights law and standards.

Amnesty On-the-Ground in Kenya

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This week, Amnesty International kicked off a high level research mission to Kenya to launch our first Demand Dignity campaign action.  Irene Khan, Amnesty’s Secretary General, visited to two informal settlements in Nairobi – where almost two million people live in slums – asking residents to tell the Kenyan government what dignity mean to them via a free SMS service.   The responses have been inspiring, take a look at a few:

For me, living with dignity means “setting principles to your ways and standard of living and be true to them.”

“Dignity is having three meals a day. Clean water. shelter. Good roads. justice for all but not for the few corrupt.”

“Dignity refers to carrying humanity with respect and honour.”

Community members from Korogocho and Kibera slums told the Amnesty delegation stories, sang songs and used street theatre performances to illustrate the human rights violations they face everyday as slum residents.  Irene Khan noted:

“The development of slums in urban areas has become the iconic symbol of the forgotten, marginalized people – excluded not only from basic services like sanitation, but also from the decision making that takes place even in their own lives.”

In the settlements, children play in muddy streams which run through narrow passageways, while pathways are littered with garbage, animal and human waste. Overcrowding in Kibera – Africa’s largest slum – is a huge problem with more than 800,000 people living on 250 hectares

Many of the informal settlement residents described the insecurity associated with slum-life. In Korogocho, Irene Khan met with Mama Franco, a mother of three, who recently lost her few personal possessions in a house fire started by the paraffin lamp she uses as she has no electricity supply.  Mama Franco is one of an estimated 127,000 poor Kenyans who face losing their homes in a planned river clean up program.

Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign seeks to empower people living in poverty and take their voices to the highest level of government. The voices collected in Kenya’s informal settlements through the SMS action and website will be collected and presented to the Kenya government on World Habitat Day.