Journalists Reporting on Refugee Issues Detained in the Gambia
(17 January 2014) International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) is concerned about the arrest of two journalists by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on Monday 13 January 2014. The publisher and managing editor of the private newspaper The Voice and Pan African News Agency (PANA) stringer in The Gambia, Musa Sheriff and freelance reporter Sainey Marehna were arrested in their Serekunda office and driven to Sanyang Coastal village police station, which is about 35 kilometres away from the capital city of Banjul.
For many years Musa Sheriff has been reporting as a journalist the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in the Gambia and in the region. Mr. Sheriff and his Voice newspaper recently followed the case of five refugees who were detained by the Gambian Department of Immigration and charged with giving false information when they wrote a petition to the president protesting their living conditions in the Gambia. The refugees were released after four months in detention in the central prison of Banjul.The journalists are charged by the police under Section 14 of the Criminal Code for allegedly publishing false news. NIA said their arrests were in connection with a story published by the weekly Voice newspaper in early December reporting that 19 “green boys”, members of the youth wing of President Yahya Jammeh’s party, defected to the opposition.
IRRI considers this arrest to be a violation of international protections of freedom of expression. Gambia is a party to the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights which protects freedom of expression in Article 9. In addition, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom … to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media.”
Read full press release here.
Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa
A paper series developed by the International Refugee Rights Initiative in collaboration with local partners in Africa reflecting local perspectives on experiences with international justice. The series is designed to more fully explore perceptions of international justice and the social, political and legal impact of its mechanisms at the local level. It is aimed at opening up a dialogue about the successes and failures of the international justice experiment in Africa and the development of recommendations for a more productive and effective engagement going forward.
The papers in the series are:
Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Reflecting on the Impact of the ICC in Ituri, paper no. 2, March 2012. Lisez la version francaise.
A Poisoned Chalice? Local civil society and the International Criminal Court's engagement in Uganda, paper no. 1, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.
Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa, Introductory note to the paper series, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.
COMPARISON OF THE KAMPALA CONVENTION AND THE IDP PROTOCOL OF THE GREAT LAKES PACT
On 6 December 2013, the Kampala Convention celebrated the one year anniversary of its entry into force. Officially known as the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa it commits national governments to provide legal protection for the rights and wellbeing of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of armed conflict, generalised violence, natural disasters, human rights abuses, development projects and other causes.
The fact that 19 African countries have ratified the Convention in a relatively short period of time is a great achievement. However, much more needs to be done not only to ensure that the Convention gains more ratifications, but to ensure the promotion of its implementation.
In order to reinforce this effort, IRRI is launching a briefing paper that provides an analytical comparison between the Convention and a largely similar instrument, the Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). This comparison, we believe, will encourage other African countries to ratify the Convention, primarily those in the Great Lakes Region, who have already undertaken a similar set of legal commitments by ratifying the Great Lakes Protocol.
From refugee to returnee to asylum seeker: Burundian refugees struggle to find protection in the Great Lakes region
Today, the International Refugee Rights Initiative is launching a briefing paper, From refugee to returnee to asylum seeker: Burundian refugees struggle to find protection in the Great Lakes region.
Based on interviews conducted in Nakivale settlement in Uganda and discussions of the findings with the government of Uganda and UNHCR, the briefing tells the story of a small number of Burundian refugees and asylum seekers who have fled into a second phase of exile. As former refugees living in Tanzania’s Mtabila refugee camp, they were forcibly returned to Burundi at the end of 2012 before fleeing once more, this time to Uganda’s Nakivale refugee settlement. Here, they report that they are eking out a precarious living, with inadequate access to humanitarian assistance and with little confidence that their claims for protection will be successful.
Their future is highly precarious, and the story they tell underscores the realities of living in a region that has failed to find a comprehensive solution to the plight of thousands of refugees. It points to a Tanzanian government fatigued with hosting refugees for decades; a Burundian government that has failed to establish and implement equitable structures for the distribution and reclamation of land and to create an inclusive polity in which opposition is tolerated; and a Ugandan government reportedly concerned about granting refugee status to asylum seekers whose status has been examined multiple times.
The wider context in which these events are unfolding is one in which repatriation and return—including forced return in the context of cessation—is being strongly emphasised across the region for protracted refugee situations to the detriment of those for whom return is not possible. As a result, while closing Mtabila camp in Tanzania and emptying it of refugees might have made it look like the problem had been resolved for the government of Tanzania and the international community, in reality it may have only displaced it elsewhere in the region.
In light of the findings, the briefing concludes with a number of recommendations.
Read the full paper here.