Human Rights League of the
Horn of Africa
HRLHA Urgent Action and Appeal
PUBLIC, 12 January 2011
Extra-judicial Arrest in Djibouti; Fear of Deportations and Tortures
Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety of nine Oromo refugees from Ethiopia whose whereabouts are not known since they were extra-judicially arrested and taken away by members of the Djibouti force in Djibouti on different occasions in the months of November and December 2010 and January 2011.
Mr. Jundi Bakar Ahmad (a father of 7), Mr. Mohammad Aliyyi Mummad, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad Sa'id, Mr. Umar Ibrahim Yussuf, Mr. Ali Ahmad Mohammad, and Mr. Anwar Jamaal were all arrested by a joint force of Djibouti Police and Ethiopian security agents on December 22, 2010 in Djibouti, at a place called. Nagar Ambouli Sortie. Prior to that, Mr. Ibrahim Hussien, Mustafa Muktar (very young and age 16), and Mr. Kadir Umar were arrested in the same way on November 25, 2010; and their whereabouts are not known since then.
What further raises HRLHA’s concern about those refugees is that the Ethiopian security agents were involved in both their apprehensions and interrogations, according to information obtained through HRLHA reporters. Given this direct involvement of the Ethiopia security agents in the arrest and interrogation activities, it is very likely that the cases of those refugees have been politicized and that they might have been subjected to tortures, and might have also been deported to Ethiopia, where they could face further severe punishments. There are also unconfirmed reports that refugees in Djibouti are subjected to forced labour once they are arrested, regardless of their ages; and often physically assaulted.
Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) calls up on the Djibouti Government to disclose the whereabouts and current situations of those refugees to all concerned bodies. We also request the government of Djibouti to abide by both international and regional covenants, treaties and agreements, and ensure that the rights of refugees in its territory are respected.
Previously, the Djibouti Government handed over many refugees of Ethiopian Oromo origin at different times to Ethiopian Government in breaching the international refugees’ rights agreements.
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 and in some cases sentences them to long terms in prison. Some face the harshest punishment including death penalty. Ethiopia currently has many former refugees, who were handed over by Djibouti, and other neighboring Countries who were given death sentences and awaiting execution after being arrested similarly and handed over to Ethiopian Government in different years. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian prisons and other secret places of detention.
HRLHA has a profound belief that the two countries – Djibouti and Ethiopia – are acting jointly in hunting, arresting and punishing alleged members and/or supporters of opposition political organizations and human rights activists. The obligation that a country should not return a refuge to the country they have fled, 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 handing over the Ethiopian Oromo refugees to the Ethiopian governments, the Djibouti Government is breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary laws.
Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185), the Djibouti Government has the obligation not to return a person to a place where they are likely to face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides that:
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.
Due to these and other similar facts, HRLHA is highly concerned about the fate of those arrested refugees. Therefore, HRLHA calls upon regional and international humanitarian and diplomatic communities and agencies to approach and pressurize the Djibouti Government to disclose the whereabouts and the current situations of those refugees, and also refrain from deporting them. HRLHA also calls upon those same agencies and communities to exert pressure on the Horn of African countries to refrain from becoming tools of authoritarian regimes and instead respect the rights of refugees to safety and protection according the regional and international refugees rights agreements.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to the Djibouti Government and its concerned officials as swiftly as possible, in English, French, or your own language expressing:
concern at the apprehension and fear of deportation of the refugees who are being held in detention since November and December 2010 at different times, and in January 2011 and calling for their immediate and unconditional release;
urging the authorities of Djibouti to ensure that these detainees are treated in accordance with regional and international standards on the treatment of prisoners.
His Excellency; Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti
Po Box; 185
Tel; (253) 35 39 95, Fax; (253) 35 39 40.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
(particularly for urgent matters)
UNHCR main office Geneva, Switzerland.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Suisse. telephone number: +41 22 739 8111
African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights (ACHPR)
48 Kairaba Avenue, P.O.Box 673, Banjul,
Tel: (220) 4392 962 , 4372070, 4377721 – 23
Fax: (220) 4390 764
U.S. Department of State
Tom Fcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer
Washington, D.C. 20037
Amnesty International – London
Fax number: +44-20-79561157
• Human Rights Watch – New York, Tel: +1-212-290-4700