The ongoing detention of nine Kenyans in Uganda in connection with a July 11 suicide bombing is raising concerns about the use of extra judicial rendition in Africa as a tool to fight Islamic terrorism.
On Aug. 9, 2010, Ismail Abubakar, was arrested from an outdoor market near the mosque where he had just finished teaching young Kenyans how to read the Quran.
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, Abubakar – nicknamed "Mzungu" because of his pink albino skin – was 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 counter terrorism 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, saying he had never been to the west side of Nairobi, let alone go to Uganda.
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 Cage prisoners estimates that 88 men, women, and children have been subjected to extra judicial transfers from Kenya as of 2007.
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 says this is happening on a global scale.
Among the most prominent of the Kenyan detainees is a human rights defender named Al-Amin Kimathi.