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Eritrea: Refugees Involuntarily Repatriated from Libya

Letter to President Issayas Afewerki

Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the treatment of more than one hundred Eritrean citizens forcibly repatriated from Libya during the last two weeks of July.

We respectfully request assurances from your government that they will not be mistreated. If there are credible allegations that any of these persons has committed a criminal offense, they should be promptly charged and brought before a civilian court, given access to legal representation, and allowed family visits. If not, they should be promptly released.

Mr. President, your Government has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 7 of the Convention outlaws torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 9 requires that every person detained to be informed of the charges against him or her and either be promptly brought before a competent tribunal or released. Article 14 imposes a presumption of innocence and grants a right to legal representation and to a public trial. Your Government is also a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 5 of the Charter prohibits all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment and treatment. Article 6 prohibits arbitrary arrests and detentions. Article 7 guarantees every individual a right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent tribunal, a right to a defense by counsel of his or her choice, and a right to prompt adjudication.

According to reliable reports, your Government arrested all of those who were forcibly returned from Libya and is holding them incommunicado. Unfortunately, their plight resembles that of refugees forcibly returned to Eritrea in 2002. Human Rights Watch has received reliable reports that many of those refugees are still confined and that some have been tortured. To our knowledge, none were ever brought before a court and your Government has not revealed their whereabouts.

Mr. President, you have frequently complained about other countries’­ violations of their treaty obligations. Here is an opportunity for your Government to lead by example by ensuring strict and immediate compliance with the International Covenant and the African Charter.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter and would appreciate learning of any steps you have taken to ensure that the rights of all the detainees are protected.

Very truly yours,

Peter Takirambudde
Director, Africa Division

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