The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) has learnt through its informants that the government of Djibouti has arbitrarily arrested 43 refugees from Ethiopia (Oromo and Ogdenian nationals) and deported the, to Ethiopia. All these refugees, who were picked up by the Djibouti security forces from their residences on the 31st of December, 2012 were confined in a small detention cell and finally handed over to Ethiopian security forces on January 1, 2013 in violation of international treaties to which, we believe, Djibouti is a signatory. It has been difficult to obtain the names of all of the victims of these joint actions of the Djibouti and the Ethiopian governments. However, the HRLHA informant has managed to obtain the name of the followings:
Besides, the HRLHA reporter in Diredawa, Eastern Oromia/Ethiopia has confirmed that the deported refugees are currently detained in Diredawa town detaintion center in the Eastern Oromia where they are held in solitary confinement.
Despite their having the UNHCR attestation papers, Kadir Hasan ahmed, Fatih Mohamed Ali, Abdul Aziz Ahmed and Muhamed Abdo Ahmed have been handed over to the security forces of Ethiopian Government by the government of Djibouti at the Ethio-Djibouti border in February 2008 (HRLHA Urgent Action No 1, February 18, 2008, )
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.”
The Ethiopian government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including imposing a death penalty, and 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 handing over the Ethiopian refugees and others, 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), Djibouti has the 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.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety and security of the refugees handed over to the Ethiopian Government and those Who are still living in Djibouti. It urges the Government of Djibouti to respect the international treaties and obligations. It also urges all human rights agencies (local, regional and international) to join hands with it and condemn these illegal and inhuman acts of both the Ethiopian and the Djibouti governments against defenseless refugees. It requests governments of the West and other international organizations to interfere so that the safety and security of the deported refugees to Ethiopia and of those refugees currently living in Djibouti would be secured.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to the Ethiopian Government, concerned Ethiopian officials and to diplomatic representatives in Ethiopia who are accredited to your country as swiftly as possible, in English, expressing:
v Your concern regarding the fear of torture of the returnees who are being held in Diredawa detention center and different detention centers; and calling for their immediate and unconditional release;
v urging the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that these detainees would be treated in accordance with the regional and international standards on the treatment of prisoners,
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022 (particularly for urgent matters)
African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights (ACHPR)
48 Kairaba Avenue, P.O.Box 673, Banjul, The Gambia.