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Human Rights Watch Fears for Deported Angolan Human Rights Activist

Human Rights Watch condemned the Government of Namibia's forcible return of an Angolan refugee and human rights activist to Angola on May 19.

Manuel Neto, an Angolan with refugee status in Namibia who has not lived in Angola for many years, was arrested on May 18 and deported the following day according to a statement issued by the Namibian Interior Ministry on May 27. Neto is the Executive Director of the Angolan Human Rights League which was established on May 6 and is legally recognized as a not-for-profit non-governmental organization in Namibia. The Namibian authorities claim that Neto's activities constituted a threat to national security.

"We are very worried for the safety of Dr. Neto. He has not been seen since May 18," said Dr. Peter Takirambudde, Human Rights Watch's executive director for Africa. "We find it difficult to believe the Namibian government's claim that he volunteered to be deported to Angola, the country he had refugee status from. I call on the Angolan authorities to inform foreign diplomats and the U.N.'s human rights division of details of his whereabouts and assist them in getting access to him," Takirambudde added.

Angola will host in October the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights and a special OAU Council of Ministers summit on human rights. Both are important international meetings located in Angola to demonstrate the government's support for the 50th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights.

Human Rights Watch also condemns Namibia's disregard for international refugee law, especially the principle of 'non-refoulement' _ which forbids the forcible return of a refugee to a country where his life or freedom might be threatened. This is enshrined in the 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees, of which Namibia is a signatory.

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