Somali Refugees Granted Asylum

Somali Refugees Granted Asylum

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – More than half of Mogadishu’s population has fled the city since fighting began between forces of the transitional government backed by Ethiopian troops and Islamic insurgents. According to the UN, more than one million Somalis are homeless and nearly 200,000 have fled their home in the past two weeks alone. Many of the refugees fled to nearby Kenyan camps, despite the fact that Kenya closed its border with Somalia in January.

Two weeks ago, a group of Somali refugees flew from Mogadishu to Uganda via Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Of that group, 18 were forcibly deported back to Mogadishu without being given a chance to file for asylum according to Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR. The UNHCR was denied access to the detained women and children. The remaining refugees were held in the airport and chose to engage in a hunger strike until they were allowed into the refugee camp.

The Kenyan police believed the group were not refugees but in fact victims of a human trafficking ring. According to the airport police commander, Joseph Mumira, the group was not being deported but taken back from where they came. This past weekend a Nairobi court held the deportation of refugees to a war zone against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later the group, which included seven women and five children, was allowed into Dadaab camp. The Muslim Human Rights Forum of Kenya condemned the deportation of the first group but applauded the government’s decision to grant asylum despite the delay.

Meanwhile on Saturday, the Kenyan police detained a group of refugees who illegally arrived through the Liboi border in two vehicles. The group of 50 Somalis were arrested and deported. 

Since the closing of the Kenyan border, hundreds of Somalis fleeing Mogadishu have been living in a makeshift camp in Doble.

For more information please see:

BBC- Hunger Strike Somalis get Asylum – 26 November 2007

Reuters: Africa- UN says Somali Asylum-Seekers let into Kenyan Camp – 26 November 2007

BBC- Somali Refugees on Hunger Strike – 21 November 2007 High Court Reprieve for Somali Asylum Seekers – 24 November 2007

BRIEF: Rudd Gov’t to Close Nauru Detention Facility

YAREN, Nauru – The newly elected Rudd government in Australia has said that Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre in Nauru will be closed, though no timeframe has been released.  Rudd says that the reason for this secrecy is due to the contractual relationships between Australia and Nauru.  He further stated that his government would use a new facility on Christmas Island instead, which is within the Australian commonwealth and has an 800-bed capacity.

Human rights activist Susan Metcalfe agrees with the decision to close the facility, but is concerned about the economic impact the closure will have on Nauru.  She told Radio New Zealand International, “I feel quite concerned for Nauru, there is quite a dependency on the camps and to pull them out very quickly will hurt the country, I believe.  I hope that the Labor party will handle that transition very carefully.  They need to have a lot of discussions with the Nauruan government and the aid package that they give, I hope, will be substantial.”

Rudd also did not commit Australia to taking the 72 Sri Lankans who were granted refugee status in September but remain in detention in the Nauru facility.  (For background on this story, please see the Impunity Watch reportshere and here.)  The coalition government is currently looking for other countries willing to take the refugees, but the refugees themselves have asked that the incoming Rudd government make a resettlement decision quickly.

For more information, please see:

The Age – Rudd has no timeframe for Nauru closure – 21 November 2007

Islands Business – Refugee group expects new Australian govt to close Nauru centre – 26 November 2007

Islands Business – Detainees make appeal to Rudd – 27 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Human rights activist says Nauru will need compensation from Canberra when camp closes – 27 November 2007

Lahoud’s term ends leaving Lebanon without a President

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BEIRUT, Lebanon – On November 23, the Lebanese parliament postponed the election of a president for a fifth time – until November 30.  This meant that later that day, when current President Lahoud’s term ended, Lebanon was left without a president.  As Lahoud vacated the presidential palace, he declared a state of emergency and handed security powers to the Lebanese Army, lead by General Michel Suleiman.

However, following this announcement, Prime Minister Siniora rejected Lahoud’s declaration of a state of emergency, stating that it was unconstitutional since the required cabinet approval was not given.  Instead, Siniora claims that the cabinet acts as a caretaker until a new president is elected by the parliament.  Still, over 20,000 Lebanese soldiers are deployed in and around Beirut to prevent and contain any factional fighting.  During the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel and the conflict against militants this summer, the army gained respect within Lebanon as a neutral institution.

Currently, Lebanese politics are divided between two main factions: pro-Syrian and pro-Western.  The pro-Syrian faction includes former President Lahoud and Shia groups such as Hezbollah; and receives support from Syria and Iran.  The pro-Western faction includes current Prime Minister Siniora and receives support from the US and Saudi Arabia.

For the past year, tensions between the two groups have grown and resulted in the resignation of several parliament and cabinet members.  For the past few months, Hezbollah party members and pro-Syrian members have been boycotting parliamentary elections, preventing the necessary quorum, thus making any result unconstitutional.  Pro-Syrians also claim that the government is unconstitutional, following the resignation of five pro-Syrian members.  The current situation has prompted fears that a parallel government will be created and that a political power struggle between the two will result in a second civil war.

Following the end of Lahoud’s presidency and the ensuing presidential vacuum, both sides have agreed to maintain the relative peace and stability until the scheduled election on November 30.  Each side maintains that the most important goal right now is security and for a peaceful resolution.  However, Hezbollah has complicated the situation by demanding that the next president support the group’s fight against Israel.  While the pro-Western government currently does not have relations with Israel, it is hesitant to provoke hostilities with their neighbor.

Some analysts believe that the upcoming peace conference in Annapolis will help resolve the conflict.  Some believe that Syria is purposely delaying the election and is waiting to see what happens in Annapolis.  If Syria is allowed to be a major player in the discussions, it is thought that they will be more likely to pressure the opposition to agree on a president.

For more information, please see:
Associated Press – Hezbollah adds new demand in Lebanon – 25 November 2007

Reuters – Hezbollah raises specter of long Lebanon power void – 25 November 2007

Telegraph – Hezbollah recruits thousands in Lebanon crisis – 25 November 2007

Associated Press – Political crisis deepens in Lebanon – 24 November 2007

BBC – Lebanon faces power vacuum threat – 24 November 2007

Guardian – Lebanon’s president hands power to army – 24 November 2007

Middle East Times – Lebanon in constitutional void – 24 November 2007

New York Times – Vote is postponed as Lebanese president leaves – 24 November 2007

The Press Association – Army in control, says Lebanese PM – 24 2007

Reuters – Lebanese PM says cabinet assumes presidential powers – 24 November 2007

BBC – Lebanese presidency ends in chaos – 23 November 2007

International Herald Tribune – With Lebanon in political turmoil, army emerges as nation’s last line of defense – 23 November 2007

BRIEF: Kenya’s Police Alleged to Have Killed Over 8,000

NAIROBI, Kenya – The Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic has come forth claiming that the Kenyan police have killed more than 8,000 Mungiki people since 2002.  These people were executed or tortured by Kenya’s General Service Unit during a crack-down on the banned Mungiki politico-religious sect in slum areas.

A Kenyan police spokesperson called the report “fictitious” and states that instead criminals are responsible for the deaths.  The Oscar Foundation, however, claims that they have “documented 8,040 cases of death by execution and torture perpetuated by state agents and another 4,070 cases of disappearance where victims remain unaccounted for in the period between August 2002 and August 2007”.  The report is based on autopsy reports, relative interviews, and other records.

The Oscar Foundation report closely follows a statement by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights that linked Kenyan police to 500 Mungiki executions in the past 5 months.  It also comes out ahead of the Kenyan general election next month, where President Mwai Kibaki will seek his second term.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Lawyers say police killed 8,000 Kenyans in sect crackdown – 25 November 2007

BBC News – Kenyan police ‘killed thousands’ – 25 November 2007

Malaysia Sun – Kenyan police blamed for mass murders – 25 November 2007

Brief: Ballu Khan Sues Fiji over Maltreatment

SUVA, Fiji — Ballu Khan is suing the interim government of Fiji for $26 million for his maltreatment at the hands of police officials.  Khan, who was detained following an alleged assassination attempt against interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, is still in hospital healing from the fractured skull and cheekbone that he received while in police custody.  The suit, filed by Peter Williams QC, alleges that the Fijian military police are guilty of assault, battery and wrongful imprisonment.

The suit alleges that Khan did not resist arrest, but that he was still severely beaten and military police officials were indifferent to whether Khan lived or died.  Williams says that this treatment is tantamount to torture.

Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde has called this request for compensation “extraordinary and outrageous”.  He has said that the government of Fiji will vigorously defend itself from this lawsuit.  The interim PM has commented that he believes that the New Zealand businessman is faking his injuries.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International —  New Zealand businessman injured by Fiji police, seeks millions for maltreatment — 22 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International — Ballu Khan suing Fiji interim government alleging assault and battery, and wrongful imprisonment — 22 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International — Lawyer says Fiji military’s treatment of suspect tantamount to torture — 22 November 2007

Fiji Times Online — Ballu sues State for $40m — 22 November 2007