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Refugee deportations may give rise to Israel's international criminal responsibility

On Sunday, April 15, 2018 GLAN wrote to warn officials from both Israel and Uganda on the possible international criminal legal ramifications of systematic forcible deportation of African asylum seekers to Uganda. Israel has claimed the two countries intend to go forward with the deportation policy under a classified bilateral agreement, potentially violating the rights of up to 36,000 individuals. Our message was sent shortly before the Israeli Attorney General informed the Israeli Supreme Court that so far, no agreement has been concluded. Following this statement, on Sunday the Court decided that asylum seekers detained, supposedly to facilitate the agreement, will be released. Nonetheless Israel still seeks such an agreement, which politicians in the right-wing government party (Likud) say should be realized by introducing a constitutional amendment which would preempt judicial review.

As the ICC Prosecutor recently explained in her position on the mass deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh, ICC jurisdiction may be triggered wherever essential elements of a crime occur within the territory of a state party to the Rome Statute. While Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, Uganda is a party and hence the forcible deportation of African migrants from Israel may trigger ICC jurisdiction. In recent years, the ICC Prosecutor has declared it would investigate issues related to migrant and refugee rights. We welcome this measure, which may contribute to the protection of one of an enormous vulnerable population located around the world. We have have further aimed to direct the attention of the ICC Prosecutor to the complicity of "developed" states in some of the most abusive policies towards refugees and migrants.

Our ongoing work on this front began with a communication to the ICC Prosecutor on violations by Australian agents in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, in collaboration with Stanford Law School. It continued with an opinion we published on the potential liability of Italian agents for abuses of migrant and refugee rights in Libya. Now we are targeting the planned forcible transfer of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers from Israel to Uganda. The latter measure is another particularly heinous example of a dangerous global trend to limit and potentially annihilate the right to seek asylum, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our legal campaign against this trend will likely continue in the following months.

Download GLAN's letter to Israeli and Ugandan officials here.


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