Kenya court quashes government order to close refugee camp

Author: AP
Published: Updated:
FILE – In this Friday, Aug. 5, 2011, file photo, tents are seen at the UNHCR’s Ifo Extension camp outside Dadaab, eastern Kenya, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Somali border. A Kenyan court on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017 declared illegal a government order to close the world’s largest refugee camp and send more than 200,000 people back to war-torn Somalia. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) A Kenyan court ruled Thursday that the government must not close the world’s largest refugee camp and send more than 200,000 people back to war-torn Somalia.

Kenya’s internal security minister had abused his power by ordering the closure by May of Dadaab refugee camp, in eastern Kenya, Judge John Mativo said.

The minister and other officials had “acted in excess and in abuse of their power, in violation of the rule of law and in contravention of their oaths of office,” Mativo said.

The judge said the decision to close the refugee camp is discriminatory and goes against the Kenyan constitution as well as international treaties that protect refugees against being returned to a conflict zone.

“The government’s decision specifically targeting Somali refugees is act of group persecution, illegal discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional,” he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has also not proved Somalia is safe for the refugees to return, Mativo said.

Kenya has said the closure of Dadaab is necessary because the sprawling camp is a recruitment ground for al-Shabab, Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, and a base for the group to launch attacks on Kenya.

Al-Shabab has carried out several attacks on Kenya, which sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants who are waging an insurgency against Somalia’s weak western-backed government. Al-Shabab’s attacks on Kenyan targets include the September 21, 2013 attack on Westgate mall that killed 67 people and last year’s attack on Garissa University that killed 148 people, mostly students.

But Kenyan officials have not provided conclusive proof that Dadaab camp is a staging ground for extremist attacks. Some Kenyan officials have said the Westgate attackers came from Dadaab but investigators later said they came from a different refugee camp, Kakuma, which is mostly populated by South Sudanese refugees in northern Kenya.

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