UNHCR deeply concerned about hand-over of Rwandan refugee by Ugandan authorities

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the situation of Joel Mutabazi, a Rwandan refugee who was arrested and handed over to the authorities of his country of origin against his will by Uganda Police authorities on Saturday 26 October 2013.

The Minister in charge of refugees in Uganda has acknowledged that the arrest and hand-over took place and regretted that this was an act of "error" and "indiscipline" by the officer who carried it out. He also announced the officer's suspension so that investigations can be carried out into what happened and provided assurances that the arrest and hand-over of Mr Mutabazi do not affect the commitment of the Government of Uganda to its protection obligations under international refugee law and the laws of Uganda itself.

UNHCR appreciates these steps and assurances. It is nevertheless saddened that a serious breach of a critical duty of protection has occurred at the hands of the country's law enforcement authorities and exposed Mr Mutabazi to grave risk.

UNHCR looks forward to the investigations promised by the Minister being carried out in an expeditious and transparent manner and to those found responsible to be brought to account.

UNHCR also calls upon all the concerned branches of the Government of Uganda indeed to continue abiding by its obligations to protect all refugees and asylum seekers on its territory and, particularly, not to return them to the very situations and risks from which they have fled for their safety.

Mr Mutabazi's return was in breach of the principle of non-refoulement and he is now in the hands of the authorities of his country of origin. UNHCR remains concerned about his safety and thus calls upon the Rwandan authorities to respect his fundamental human and legal rights.

Uganda is host to some 240,000 refugees including 14,000 from Rwanda.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi: Kitty McKinsey (Regional) on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83