February 12, 2019 (NAIROBI) – Rights groups Monday have called on Kenya and South Sudan to investigate into the enforced disappearance of two South Sudanese activists in Nairobi more than two years ago.
Dong Samuel Luak, a prominent South Sudanese lawyer and human rights activist, and Aggrey Idri, a member of the SPLM-IO were kidnapped in the Kenyan capital on January 23 and 24, 2017, respectively.
Despite multiple reports about their arrest by the Kenyan police forces country and deportation to Juba, authorities in the two neighbouring denied any collusion in their disappearance.
On January 17, 2019, a Kenyan High Court ended its 24-month oversight of the police investigation and advised the families to pursue alternative administrative remedies such as filing a complaint with the Internal Police Oversight Authority.
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on the two countries to ensure “effective, transparent, and impartial investigations” into their disappearance, stressing such a decision may lead to a denial of justice.
“The families of Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Idri have waited patiently for the truth for two years, their lives in limbo,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“But this decision which lets Kenyan police off the hook risks sending this case into oblivion and denying the families justice,” Henry further said.
Kenyan police had already shown no enthusiasm to probe the two cases, triggering the filing of a case before Kenyan justice requesting that the police be ordered to produce Luak and Idri in court.
But the Kenyan judge rejected the claim saying he could not establish that they were in custody and that the police can investigate the matter.
However, as the police investigation stalled, their families sought a judicial order to the police to investigate the disappearance. But the police in February 2018, pledged only to keep the case open.
The joint statement underscored that the decision ends any judicial oversight into the police action on the case.
“How long will this charade go on as the families of Luak and Idri continue to languish in agony over their loved ones?” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International last year said they “had seen both men in National Security Service (NSS) detention in Juba, South Sudan, on January 25 and 26, 2017”.
Recently, James Dak the former spokesperson of the SPLM-IO leader confirmed that he had been illegally deported to Juba as a result of close cooperation between the security organs in Nairobi and Juba.
The two rights groups said the South Sudanese government unwillingness to investigate the disappearance of the two activists “is an abdication of its binding legal obligations, demonstrates total disregard for the men’s fundamental rights, and exacerbates their families’ concerns”.