- People reported seized in country’s capital and northeast
- Crackdown began after 2013 al-Shabaab raid on mall, HRW says
Kenyan security forces have forcibly disappeared at least 34 people during counter-terrorism operations in the capital and northeast over the past two years, Human Rights Watch said.
The multi-agency raids arrested people allegedly suspected of links to al-Shabaab, a Somali militant organization, the New York-based group said Wednesday in a report. Months later, those seized haven’t been charged with any crimes, nor located, with their families receiving little assistance from authorities, it said.
The bodies of at least 11 other people arrested by state agents were later found, in some cases far from where they were seized, according to the advocacy group. Mwenda Njoka, a spokesman for Kenya’s Interior Ministry, said the government had just heard of the report and would respond later.
“People in northeastern Kenya deserve protection from al-Shabaab attacks, not further abuse from the authorities,” said Ken Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director. “Rounding people up and refusing to disclose their whereabouts is a serious crime and only compounds fears and mistrust in the security forces.”
Anti-militant operations began in northeastern counties such as Mandera shortly after al-Shabaab’s September 2013 attack on Westgate mall in the capital, Nairobi, in which at least 67 people died. The moves intensified after the al-Qaeda-linked group raided a college in Garissa county last year, killing at least 147 people, Human Rights Watch said.
Those arbitrarily arrested included young ethnic Somali Kenyans, imams and Islamic schoolteachers, who were detained in places including military bases and makeshift army camps, according to the rights group. The 87-page report is based on eight months of investigations and interviews with 117 people, including victims and witnesses to incidents, lawyers, human-rights activists, police and military officers and local community leaders.