HRLHA URGENT ACTION September 2008 (Appeal to the President of Somaliland)
HRLHA URGENT ACTION September 2008
Appeal To: The President of Somaliland
September 2, 2008
His Excellency President Dahir Rayaale Kahin
President of the Republic of Somaliland
First of all, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) would like to express its appreciation to the people of the Republic of Somaliland and to its government for their hospitality and kindness towards thousands of Oromo refugees who have fled their homes to escaped government persecutions in Ethiopia; and now living in Somaliland. Especially since the TPLF Government came to power, thousands of Oromo nationals have run away from arbitrary detentions, degrading tortures and violent killings in Ethiopia to save their lives by seeking refuge in Somaliland and other neighbouring countries.
However, HRLHA recently received a disheartening report that the Somaliland Government has decided to expel all Oromo refugees and other Oromo nationals currently living in Somaliland. According to the report, which was published in the Geeska Africa newspaper August 30, 2008 edition, the reason given for such a decision was that “Oromos do not have any political problem to leave their country”.
Your Excellency, we would like to bring to your attention that this claim is completely unfounded; and that the reality out there in Ethiopia is the reverse of it especially when it comes to the Oromo nationals. We would also like to bring to your attention that this is a reality that has already attracted international focus, including that of Ethiopia’s Western allies. For example, in its 2007 Country Report on Ethiopia, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor acknowledged that:
… there were widespread human rights abuses including: unlawful killings, and beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of those suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the opposition; restrictions on freedom of the press; restrictions on freedom of assembly and association; and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, among other human rights violations.
The HRLHA believes that, based on such facts, your government has a moral obligation to reconsider and reverse this very serious decision.
Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.”
In case those Ethiopian Oromo refugees are to be deported, the Ethiopian government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian prisons and other secret places of detention. This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly.
By deporting the Oromo refugees and others, the Somaliland government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.
Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185) Somaliland has an obligation not to return a person to a place where they face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides:
1. No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
We strongly urge the Government of Somaliland to respect these international treaties and obligations.
Background: the Oromia state president Minase W/Giorgis was visiting Somaliland from August 28,2008 until this Urgent Action is compiled to convince the Somaliland government over the process of expelling all Oromo refugees from Somaliland.
The HRLHA is a non-political organization which attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. It works on defending fundamental human rights including freedoms of thought, expression, movement and association. It also works on raising the awareness of individuals about their own basic human rights and that of others. It encourages the observances as well as due processes of law. It promotes the growth and development of free and vigorous civil societies.
Executive Director, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA)
Honorable Mr. Ahmed Hasan, Minister of Justice, Tel. 252 225 3453
Honorable Mr. Abdillahi Mohamed, Minister Foreign Affairs, Tel/Fax 252 225 3871
UNHCR- Geneva and local Offices
Amnesty International – London Telephone: +44-20-74135500
Fax number: +44-20-79561157
Human Rights Watch – New York, Tel: +1-212-290-4700
Human Rights Watch – New York
UNHCR – Somaliland Branch
DR. Sa’ad Shiek Osman Noor, Representative of the Republic of Somaliland, Washington D.C, USA
TEL: 301 231 5991
FAX: 301 231 5993