Kenyan court finds state decision to close refugee camp illegal

Judge Mativo says Kenyan government ‘abused power’ in ‘act of group persecution’

A Kenyan court has 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.

Judge John Mativo said Kenya's internal security minister abused his power in May by ordering the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, near the border with Somalia.

The judge said the decision was discriminatory and went against the Kenyan constitution as well as international treaties that protect refugees against being returned to a conflict zone.

Judge Mativo said the Kenyan government had not proved Somalia is safe for refugees to return.


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

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

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has also not proved Somalia is safe for the refugees to return, Judge 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 Mogadishu’s weak, western-backed government.

The attacks include the September 21st 2013 attack on the Westgate mall that killed 67 people and last year's assault on Garissa University that killed 148 people, mostly students.

Kenyan officials have not provided conclusive proof that the Dadaab camp is a staging ground for extremist attacks.

Some 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.