Djibouti: Intensification of Repression and Harassment against Members of the Opposition
Alkarama is concerned and condemns the recent arrests and detentions of members of the opposition coalition, the National Salvation Union (USN) and the constant harassment suffered by members of political parties and civil society in Djibouti. In view of the authorities' increased abuses against the opposition, committed with total impunity, in the run-up to the presidential elections, on 18 December 2015 Alkarama alerted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FRDX) of these violations and calls on the authorities to respect their international obligations.
Since early December 2015, particularly since Ismaïl Omar Guelleh officially announced his candidacy in the April 2016 presidential election, in which he will run for a fourth consecutive term, the police and local gendarmerie of Djibouti have intensified repression against the opposition, whose activities were already limited by the absence of a real democratic debate in Djibouti.
Thus, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on 10 December 2015, the police raided the café Historil at the Ménélik Square in Djibouti where stood several USN supporters, among them deputies Saïd Houssein Robleh and Ismael Assowé, and the USN Spokesperson and President of the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD), Daher Ahmed Farah. Abused, some of those present had to be hospitalised while the two deputies were arbitrarily detained before being released several days later. Farah was also arbitrarily arrested on 14 December and later released, but is currently under house arrest since 18 December whilst being officially summoned by the authorities on 19 December for an unknown reason.
Additionally, dozens of USN activists are still being detained in difficult conditions at the Gabode and Nagad prisons since their respective arrests between 13 and 15 December. In total, more than 38 people have been arrested in the last few days. Denied the right to visits from their families and lawyers, these persons are also at high risk of being ill-treated by the authorities, a practice that remains unpunished in Djibouti.
The authorities justify the arrests by a decision taken on 25 November 2015, which prohibits peaceful assembly under the pretext of security, and was very widely applied, including for meetings held in private places. Thus, the police illegally confined without any reason 20 USN activists who were gathering peacefully at the PK12 headquarters on 18 December 2015.
"We have documented an increase in violations committed by the authorities against peaceful opposition activists and elected officials in recent months in Djibouti and we fear that the coming weeks will see an escalation of violence against the population," said Thomas-John Guinard, Regional Legal Officer for the Nile region at Alkarama. "The authorities must allow opposition parties and civil society to operate freely and to facilitate the holding of free and transparent elections in Djibouti."
For this purpose, Alkarama alerted the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FRDX) of these arrests and of the constant harassment suffered by the opposition in Djibouti as well as the need to call on the authorities to respect their international obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The latter, ratified by Djibouti in 2002, imposes obligations on the country to respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as peaceful assembly.
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