MASERU — Eyob Asemie, a businessman of Ethiopian origin who had his Lesotho citizenship revoked is now stateless and appealing for intervention from the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR).
He wants to regain his revoked citizenship and passports.
Asemie’s Lesotho citizenship was revoked on October 19, 2012 by the Home Affairs Ministry, the same day the Court of Appeal turned down his application to be declared a Lesotho Citizen.
Assemie had fled Ethiopia seeking asylum and refugee status in Lesotho and was granted the now revoked citizenship in 2005.
Asemie has now been stranded in Pretoria, South Africa since October after losing his passport.
The Ethiopian businessman is now fighting the government of Lesotho at the ACHPR where he alleges the country has violated article 14, 17 and 18 of the African Charter.
Asemie has since requested for a provisional measure in line with Rule 98 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.
Rule 98 states: “At any time after the receipt of a Communication and before a determination on the merits, the Commission may, on its initiative or at the request of a party to the Communication, request that the State concerned adopt Provisional Measures to prevent irreparable harm to the victim or victims of the alleged violation as urgently as the situation demands.”
In his communication to the Commission, Asemie submitted he is currently exiled in South Africa, separated from his family and business in Lesotho.
He indicated to the commission his visitor’s visa to South Africa would be expiring on December 11, thereby rendering him a stateless person, as he had already renounced his Ethiopian citizenship.
He stated that by denying him access to his family, Lesotho’s government acted contrary to the letter and spirit of Article 18 of the Africa Charter.
He complained further that the refusal to allow him entry into Lesotho has thus put his property and business at great risk in violation of Article 14 of the African Charter, which guarantees his right to property.
Asemie contends that the authorities in Lesotho issued a public notice seizing his properties and business without justifiable cause.
Asemie said the government of Lesotho acted contrary to the African Charter for arbitrarily depriving him of his citizenship rights and he further states that his right to dignity has been violated.
According to article 17 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights: “every individual shall have the right to education, every individual may freely take part in cultural life of his community and the promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognised by the community shall be the duty of the state.”
Other articles that Asemie alleges have been violated are article 18 that states: “The family shall be the natural unit and basis of society. It shall be protected by the state which shall take care of its physical health and moral.
“The state shall have the duty to assist the family which is the custodian of morals and traditional values recognised by the community.
“The state shall ensure the elimination of all discrimination against women and also censure the protection of the rights of the women and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions.”
In a letter addressed to Asemie, dated June 10, the Secretary of the African Commission Dr Mary Maborek said the Commission, at its Extra-Ordinary Session held from February 19-25 in Banjul, The Gambia considered the above communication 435/12: Eyob B. Asemie v. Lesotho and decided to be seized of it.
The secretary of the Commission showed Asemie should present evidence and arguments on admissibility within two months of receiving the notification to enable the Commission to proceed with a determination of the admissibility of the communication.
The Secretariat showed that the decision of the commission was that the African Commission considered the communication and decided to be seized with it.
The Secretariat also recommended that Asemie meet the Criteria for submitting communication to the Commission in accordance with article 55 of the African Charter rule 93 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission
When presenting his case before the commission, Asemie said to the ACHPR’s 13th extra-ordinary session he is an Ethiopian now in exile in South Africa from Lesotho.
He told the commission that owing to his political views, in 2003, he fled from Ethiopia to seek asylum and refugee status in the respondent state (Lesotho) which was granted in 2005 and has since lived in Lesotho.
Asemie’s complaint to the commission’s shows he alleged he was also granted Lesotho citizenship on June 6, 2010 and that in line with the laws of Lesotho, he renounced his Ethiopian citizenship.
“According to the Complainant (Asemie), the Principal Secretary (PS) of Home Affairs of Lesotho did not invite him to the ceremony where new citizens were being sworn in to owe allegiance to the respondent State.
“He states that consequently, he challenged this decision in the court of the Respondent State, which in its judgment of 13 September 2012 ordered the Minister of Home Affairs to swear the Complaint as a citizen of the Respondent State in accordance with the provisions of Lesotho refugee Act,” said the Secretariat’s communication.
Asemie told the commission instead of complying with the High Court orders, senior officials in government started exhibiting unprovoked and extreme forms of harassment, intimidation, and intolerance against him and his family.
He said the officials had publicly sworn to deal with him without specifying what crime he had committed and have refused to obey the court order.
Asemie told the ACHPR that he had travelled to South Africa on October 14, 2012 to meet officials of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) and that what while he was away, government appealed.
He said as a result of the government’s appeal of the order of the High Court that was reversed by the Court of Appeal in its judgment delivered on October 19, 2012, his citizenship was revoked and issued a declaration nullifying his passport and barred him from re-entering Lesotho.
Asemie complained that since his passport was invalidated, he has been separated from his wife and two children who still reside in Lesotho.
“The complainant alleges that his eight months pregnant wife has been refused a visa to travel to South Africa for medical treatment, due to the unwillingness of the respondent State to give her visa facilitating letter, which is required for refugees in accordance with the new policy in the respondent state.
“The complainant asserts that his separation from his family is causing his wife and children psychological trauma, seriously affecting his children’s education and social wellbeing in school,” showed a summary of Asemie’s communication to the ACHPR.
Asemie first realised he was stranded in South Africa when he tried to cross into Lesotho after government revoked his passport on October 19 last year.
He reportedly said when he tried to return to Maseru on November 2, through the Caledonsproot border post, he was blocked by South African immigration officials after they had received notices from their Lesotho counterparts that his passport was no longer valid.
According to Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, the ACHPR through its Secretariat has since given Asemie an extension to submit his evidence and arguments on admissibility of the communication.
Maqakachane said he received an email confirming the extension on Monday this week and they are already about to complete filing processes.
He said Asemie would now be waiting for an interim relief to be granted as per his prayers to the commission.
He said after the filing stages have been passed, they expect to be called to the commission for arguments
When contacted for a comment, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs ’Malebitso Ralebitso told the Lesotho Times her office is “not aware of the matter”.
Ralebitso was accompanied by the Ministry’s Chief Legal Officer who corroborated the minister saying Asemie’s case has not come to her office’s attention hence they could not comment on the matter
Ralebitso added that all that they know is that Assemie’s passports and citizenship had been revoked.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Principal Secretary Thabang Lekhela who was said to be very conversant with Asemie’s case, could not be reached for a comment.
His secretary said he was not well when this paper sought his comment on the matter.