(Nairobi) – Kenyan authorities should investigate the alleged abduction and eventual deportation of Selahaddin GÃ¼len to Turkey, despite a Kenyan court order prohibiting his deportation, Human Rights Watch said today. The deportation of GÃ¼len, a Turkish citizen and registered asylum seeker in Kenya who is also permanently in the USA, violated Kenya’s obligations to uphold the principle of non-refoulement under international and regional refugee law.
GÃ¼len was reported missing under unclear circumstances on May 3, 2021, after reporting to the Nairobi Criminal Police Main Office as part of a court order in October 2020. Another Turkish citizen who had escorted GÃ¼len to the agency’s headquarters and disappeared with him was released by the Kenyan authorities on May 5, was arrested by agents of the Turkish secret service from a foreign country and was in the custody of their anti-terrorist police . The Kenyan authorities have not yet commented on the incident.
“The Kenyan authorities are responsible for what happens within their borders and should investigate the possibility of their officials complicity in this blatant disregard of due process,” said Otsieno Namwaya, director of east Africa at Human Rights Watch. “This is even more urgent given the negative history of the alleged complicity of the Kenyan authorities in previous abductions and deportations of asylum seekers.”
Research by Human Rights Watch shows that GÃ¼len, nephew of Fethullah GÃ¼len, a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey accused of planning a military coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, and the leader of a movement that believes Turkey is a terrorist organization , traveled to Nairobi from the USA on October 17, 2020 on a Kenyan tourist visa. It was initially picked up upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. But shortly afterwards, immigration officials arrested him and held him. They said he was wanted by Interpol in Ankara, Turkey, as part of a red alert. GÃ¼len was in Kenya to meet his Kenyan-based fiancÃ©e, whom he married a few weeks after his arrival.
On October 19, two days after his arrest at the airport, the Kenyan authorities initiated extradition proceedings against him, but later replaced them with deportation. The court, which released him on bail, ordered GÃ¼len to deposit his travel documents with the court and to report to the Criminal Police Headquarters in Nairobi on a weekly basis. He disappeared on one of those weekly visits in May. At the beginning of March, a Kenyan judge ordered that the Kenyan authorities were not allowed to continue the deportation proceedings against GÃ¼len and ordered him to return his passport and allow him to return to the United States.
On June 14, Human Rights Watch wrote to Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Rachel Omamo, and for Home Affairs and National Government Coordination, Fred Matiang’i, asking for comment on the alleged kidnapping and deportation of GÃ¼len and the role of Kenyans State agents played in the incident. The authorities have yet to respond.
GÃ¼len’s abduction and deportation is just the latest example of the fact that the Kenyan authorities do not protect asylum seekers in Kenya but allow them to be deported in potentially life-threatening situations.
On April 30, 2019, the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan published a report finding that the National Security Service (NSS) of South Sudan kidnapped Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Idri on January 23 and 24, 2017, respectively, in Nairobi Has. The UN experts said the two men were flown to South Sudan on January 27 in an airliner chartered with the help of the South Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi, and concluded that the execution of the two men at the NSS training facility was âvery serious probably â, in Lurin near Juba on January 30, 2017.
A Turkish national in Nairobi, who refused to be named for fear of attack, told Human Rights Watch that Turkish nationals in the country had legitimate concerns given the Kenyan government‘s apparent willingness to deport asylum seekers in situations where their lives could live have their safety at risk.
The use of the Interpol Red Notice warning by the Turkish government to extradite and prosecute citizens who are considered government critics, with the approval of the Kenyan authorities, would constitute an abusive manipulation of the international police system, Human Rights Watch said.
In international refugee and human rights law, the principle of non-refoulement guarantees that no one may be returned to a country threatened with torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or other irreparable harm. This principle always applies to all migrants, regardless of their migration status.
“The Kenyan authorities should respect their international human rights obligations and stop exposing refugees and asylum seekers to danger within their jurisdiction,” said Namwaya. “The Kenyan government should investigate these cases and bring officials involved to justice.”