Eritrea players sue Kgathi

Kgathi
Kgathi

The 10 Eritrean players who refuse to go home are seeking the High Court intervention to block their deportation. The players have indicated that they risk execution, detention, and torture once they set foot in their home country. Local attorney Dick Bayford will be representing the players in court this morning.

The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) through lawyer, Dick Bayford will today file an urgent application challenging government’s intention to deport 10 Eritrean footballers seeking political asylum.

Minister for Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi yesterday said on a local radio station that the government will deport the players who were part of the country’s senior national team that lost to the Zebras on Tuesday, in the 2018 World Cup qualifying game. Abane Ghebremestel of EMDHR told Mmegi that they were very disappointed in the minister’s radio comments hence they instructed their lawyer to file an urgent application.

He also expressed concern that they were being denied access to the players and were planning on approaching the courts to intervene. “We want the courts to order that our lawyer be granted access to the players so that he can represent them knowing their side of the story,” he said.


Ghebremestel further said they want the court to interdict the minister’s intention of deporting the players before they can undergo the country’s due process of seeking asylum. “Most of the players are from the Eritrean Army, and the fact that they did not leave with the others who were mostly recruited from outside the country, will lead to them being charged with treason and they can end up being killed or imprisoned,” said Ghebremestel.

For his part, Bayford said the move to file the urgent application with the courts came after the permanent secretary at the defence ministry, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe had assured him yesterday that the players will not be deported.  However, Kgathi went on national radio to say the opposite. Kgathi said the footballers did not come into the country to request asylum but to play football, hence they had to be sent back home. “They must go back home.  You don’t come to a country to play football, lose and then say you want political asylum.  There are proper steps to take and they can do that from their home country,” he said.

On Wednesday Bayford said he wrote a letter to the Kutlwano Police station commander in Francistown and copied it to the Office of the President, in which he brought to their attention the provision of the law.

He explained that once someone has presented himself or herself for refugee status, their application had to be brought before a committee.

He argued that before determination, it was illegal to deport them from the country.  Efforts by this publication to speak to the minister yesterday proved futile as he said he could not talk.

Bayford said his clients were concerned, as they had received information that there were plans to deport the players without hearing them first.

He said the letter was meant to seek assurance that the footballers would not be deported.

Eritrea’s dismal human rights record, exacerbated by indefinite military conscription, has led thousands of Eritreans to flee their country every month.

Eritrea has had no functioning legislature, independent press, or any semblance of civil society organisations since 2001. 

In early 2014, President Isaias Afwerki confirmed his lack of interest in an open society, stating: “If there is anyone who thinks there will be democracy or a multiparty system in this country ... then that person can think of such things in another world”.

Common patterns of abuse include forced labour during conscription, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances.

Other abuses include torture, degrading treatment in detention, restrictions on freedoms of expression and movement, and repression of religious freedom.

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