HRCE’s Elizabeth Chyrum sends a letter to His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, on how saddened HRCE is to learn of the Uganda-Israel multimillion dollar deal to transfer unwanted Eritrean refugees to Uganda. The letter urges Uganda to disassociate itself from any process involving 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 Yoweri Museveni
President of the Republic of Uganda
Office of the President
Uganda Media Centre
36 Clement Hill Rd.
P.O. Box 2665,
28 April 2015
Re: Uganda-Israel multimillion dollars deal to transfer unwanted Eritrean refugees
The Eritrean people are indebted to the people and government of Uganda’s hospitality accorded to them at these tough and trying times.
Explaining to Ugandans why Eritreans have been fleeing their country would be to disregard the Ugandans’ unreserved hospitality. Ugandans know that we are victims of betrayed promises and untold injustice.
The gross violations of human rights 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 situation in Eritrea are scattered in many parts of the world. Some have braved death and made it to Israel where they have been deemed as unwelcome ”infiltraters”, or even ’spies’, and have been treated inhumanely. After all the ordeals, the State of Israel chose to push these “infiltrators” to third countries.
We are not unhappy that Uganda is one of these countries. Nor are we presuming that the Eritreans would not receive the protection that they deserve under international law. However, the means that have been employed to press these individuals to leave Israel discredits the ends, both legally and morally.
The decision of the State of Israel to coerce Eritrean “infiltrators” to Rwanda and Uganda in return for substantial economic and military assistance to these countries constitutes a flagrant violation of international conventions to which both Israel and Uganda are parties. It is inhumane to consider human beings as commodities and to put these individuals in an “orbit of refugees” status which defeats the purposes of the respective international conventions and any agreement or deal.
The fact that the agreement between the two countries was hidden from the public strongly suggests that the agreement may lack legal and moral grounds in light of both countries’ international obligations. It also reinforces fears that the agreement or deal may not guarantee protection to these asylum seekers.
These are not international agreements for the transfer of waste but rather for human beings with rights and human dignity.
Transparency is meant to ensure public scrutiny of the agreement and supervision by international actors.
A lack of transparency is often prima facie evidence that the agreement or deal may not guarantee respect for human rights.
We do not question the commitment of Uganda to guarantee Eritreans the protection they deserve. However, we urge you to publicise the contents of this agreement in order to allay residual doubts that it might not guarantee to Eritreans the protection that they desperately need.
We strongly urge Uganda to disassociate itself from any process involving 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.
May I avail myself of this opportunity to express the assurance of my highest consideration to the people and government of Uganda and your leadership.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
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 Ms Sylvie Kaitesi (Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights)