HRCE’s Elizabeth Chyrum sends a letter to His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, on how saddened HRCE is to learn of the Rwanda-Israel multimillion dollar deal to transfer unwanted Eritrean refugees to Rwanda. The letter urges Rwanda to disassociate itself from this process, which has been described as a disintegration of Israel’s legal and ethical obligations towards those deserving of international protection, and an attempt to transfer the responsibility to other countries. Here is the full letter:
His Excellency Paul Kagame
President of the Republic of Rwanda
30 April 2013
Re: Rwanda – Israel multimillion-dollar deal to transfer unwanted Eritrean refugees
Let me begin with an inspirational quote delivered when you addressed the youth of Rwanda, “There is another kind of power that we have and should use. The power of being right. The power of being correct. The power of refusing injustice.”
Today Eritrean youth have no future, only a past. They are victims of betrayed promises and dearly paid sacrifices. They leave their country in thousands because of repression and indefinite slavery and most importantly for being right, correct and for refusing injustice.
The gross violations of human rights underway in Eritrea warranted the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose findings will be published in June 2015.
Eritreans who fled their homeland because of the dire human rights situation are scattered in many parts of the world. Some braved death and made it to Israel, where they have been deemed unwelcome ”infiltrators”, or even ’spies’, and have been treated inhumanely. After all their ordeals, the State of Israel coerces these “infiltrators” to third countries.
We are not unhappy that Rwanda is one of these countries. Nor are we presuming that the Eritreans would not get the protection that they deserve under international laws. However, the means that have been employed to force these individuals to leave Israel discredits the ends both legally and morally.
When we think of Rwanda, we are reminded of one of the most terrible tragedies in the history of mankind. But we also admire the subsequent measures taken by your government to ensure respect for human rights. We believe that Rwanda has much to share when it comes to human rights and is at a forefront of fighting injustice.
In light of these profound values on which, I believe, the New Republic of Rwanda has been established, I regretfully express my discontent regarding the recent decision by Rwanda to receive Eritrean “infiltrators” from Israel. http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Rwanda-confirms-Israel-talks-on-hosting-African-immigrants/-/2558/2674228/-/qy33pdz/-/index.html
It is an irony that the “sell and buy –like” agreement or deal between the State of Israel and the New Republic of Rwanda with regard to Eritrean asylum seekers is between countries that share a similar tragic history and that adopted the motto “Never Again” to protect their citizens. It is distressing that, at least in the case of Israel, this motto has not been applied when dealing with people genuinely fleeing persecution who need protection.
The decision of the State of Israel to coerce Eritrean “infiltrators” to Rwanda and Uganda, allegedly in return for substantial economic and military assistance to these countries constitutes a flagrant violation of international conventions to which both Israel and Rwanda are signatories. It is inhumane to consider human beings as commodities, and particularly, to turn these individuals into “refugees in orbit”. This policy defeats the purposes of the respective international conventions and any agreement or deal.
The fact that the details of the agreement remain secret strongly suggests that it lacks legal and moral grounds in light of both countries’ international obligations. It also reinforces fears that the agreement or deal will not guarantee adequate protection to these asylum seekers.
I do not question the commitment of Rwanda to guarantee Eritreans the protection they deserve. However, we are not convinced that the mysterious agreement/deal would provide Eritreans with the protection that they so desperately need.
Transparency would ensure public scrutiny of the agreement and supervision of international actors, while greater confidence that the destination country will fulfil its obligations.
Conversely, a lack of transparency is often prima facie evidence that the agreement or deal does not guarantee adequate respect for human rights. As see no need for secrecy of an agreement or the deal involving the transfer of people deserving of international protection, we regretfully note that these are not international agreements for the transfer of waste but rather for human beings with rights and human dignity.
I do not question the commitment of Rwanda to guarantee Eritreans the protection they deserve. However, we are not convinced that the mysterious agreement/deal would give Eritreans the protection that they desperately need.
We are not blaming Rwanda but the State of Israel when we bring to your attention that one of the Eritreans deported to Rwanda who subsequently fled to Libya to get to Europe was recently beheaded by the barbaric Islamic State.
It is also worrying that information from credible sources alleges that those who left Israel for Rwanda are not allowed to reside within its borders for more than a few days. Whoever remains after this period is at risk of detention and deportation to the country of origin, in other words, refoulement. The only way to escape this fate is to enter a different country illegally, where one is forced to reside without status.
You are no doubt aware of the role of the Eritrean people in stopping the 1994 genocide, as it was our moral obligation to act, notwithstanding our limited resources.
In light of that we strongly urge Rwanda to disassociate itself from this process, which has been described as a disintegration of Israel’s legal and ethical obligations towards those deserving of international protection, and an attempt to transfer the responsibility to other countries.
Ultimately I urge you to extract Rwanda from this illegal and immoral deal, which the Israeli authorities concluded at the expense of the lives of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers.
May I avail myself of this opportunity to express the assurance of my highest consideration to the people and government of Rwanda and your leadership?
Mr Ban Ki-moon (Secretary General of the United Nations – OHCHR)
Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights -UN)
Mr Antonio Guterres (The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR)
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Chairperson of African Union Commission)
Ms Sylvie Kaitesi (Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights)