Following recent cases of abductions and extraditions in East Africa, a new policy paper by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) seeks to clarify the key legal obligations of countries hosting foreign political opponents and opposition figures, and to urge governments to respect these obligations.
Across East Africa the protection of politically active or politically sensitive exiles is repeatedly compromised for political reasons and in violation of international law, as host governments fail to prevent, and in some cases even facilitate, the abductions and extraditions of foreigners eligible for international protection.
The principle of non-refoulement protects all individuals, regardless of whether or not they have been granted refugee status, and also applies when an extradition is sought by the country of origin of an individual: if the extradited person would face persecution or torture upon being returned to his or her country, then the extradition would be illegal.
Countries of asylum often play an important role as mediators in the violent conflicts the refugees they host are fleeing. When they target refugees because of the political opinions they express, they ultimately create an environment in which there are no neutral mediators, and therefore hinder the possibility of a meaningful, inclusive dialogue to bring the violence to an end.
The paper urges governments to refrain from removing individuals to territories in which they are at risk of persecution or torture and calls them to properly investigate cases of disappearances, abductions and harassments of refugees.