The Kenyan government’s deportation of James Gatdet Dak, the spokesperson of South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar, despite the fact that he is a recognized refugee, is a brazen and dangerous attack on refugee rights, said Amnesty International.
He was forced onto a flight on Thursday afternoon and flown to South Sudan’s capital Juba.
“Gatdet’s deportation is Kenya’s latest attack on refugees’ right to safety and it places Gatdet at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
Gatdet was arrested by Kenyan authorities at his residence in the capital, Nairobi, on 2 November. His arrest was apparently in connection with a comment he allegedly posted on his Facebook page hailing the sacking of Gen. Johnson Ondieki, a Kenyan general and the commander of UN forces in South Sudan, in the wake of a scathing UN report into failures by UN peacekeepers to protect civilians during clashes in July.
Lawyers sent by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sought to meet Gatdet at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, but were blocked by immigration officials, and no reason given.
“Now that he’s in South Sudan, the authorities there must immediately release him and grant him access to UNHCR officials, so that he can return to Kenya where he legally belongs as a bona fide refugee,” said Sarah Jackson.
Gatdet was driven to the airport and forced onto a Kenya Airways flight that took him to Juba. Upon landing, he was picked up by South Sudanese officials. According to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO), he is currently detained by the National Security Service (NSS).
He has been a recognized refugee in Kenya since August 2015.