Amnesty International Report 2016/17 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Chad

The armed group Boko Haram continued to commit abuses around Lake Chad, killing people and looting and destroying property. The violence and the government’s response displaced tens of thousands of people, who then faced dire living conditions, including little access to water and sanitation. Presidential elections in April took place against a backdrop of restrictions on freedom of expression, excessive or unnecessary use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and enforced disappearances. More than 389,000 refugees continued to live in harsh conditions in crowded camps. Former President Hissène Habré was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Senegal for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990.

Abuses by armed groups

Boko Haram carried out attacks on civilians and security forces, killing people and looting and destroying private property and public facilities.

On 31 January, at least three people, including a member of a vigilante group, were killed in two suicide attacks by Boko Haram in the villages of Guié and Miterine, Lake Chad region, and more than 56 people were injured.

Freedoms of expression and assembly

The rights to freedom of expression and of association were violated. Human rights defenders continued to be threatened and intimidated, and access to social media was regularly restricted. On 19 March, the government banned all demonstrations that were not part of the election campaign.

On 6 February, 17 peaceful protesters were arrested in the capital, N’Djamena. They were held for two days at the judicial police headquarters, where they were beaten and had tear gas thrown into their cell. At least two of them needed intensive care treatment in hospital.

Between 21 and 23 March, four activists were arrested and charged with “disturbing public order” and “disobeying a lawful order” for planning to organize a peaceful demonstration. They were detained in Amsinene Prison in N’Djamena from 24 March to 14 April. On 14 April they received a four-month suspended sentence and were prohibited from “engaging in subversive activities”. On 4 April, activist Dr Albissaty Salhe Alazam was charged with “incitement to take part in an unarmed gathering”, “disturbing public order” and “disobeying a lawful order” for organizing a peaceful demonstration on 5 April to demand the release of the four activists. He received a four-month suspended prison sentence.

In mid-April, two human rights activists fled the country after receiving death threats via SMS and anonymous phone calls following their involvement in pre-election protests against the re-election of President Déby.

On 17 November, 11 opposition activists were arrested during an unauthorized protest against the economic crisis and charged with taking part in an “unarmed gathering”. They were released on 7 December and the charges were dropped.

Excessive use of force

Security forces used excessive or unnecessary force with impunity to disperse demonstrations in N’Djamena and other towns.

In February and March, security forces violently dispersed several peaceful demonstrations across the country demanding justice for Zouhoura Ibrahim, a 16-year-old student raped on 8 February, allegedly by five young men with links to the authorities and security forces. On 15 February, police killed a 17-year-old student during a peaceful demonstration in N’Djamena, and on 22 February security forces shot dead a 15-year-old student and injured at least five others in the city of Faya Largeau.

On 7 August, police used firearms to disperse a peaceful demonstration in N’Djamena against President Idriss Déby’s re-election, killing one young man and seriously injuring another.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions – journalists

Journalists continued to be intimidated and routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests and short-term detention for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

On 28 May, a presenter on a national radio station was interrogated by agents of the Directorate of General Information after accidentally referring to the President as Hissène Habré instead of Idriss Déby while on air. He was released seven hours later and suspended from the show.

On 30 August, Stéphane Mbaïrabé Ouaye, Director of Publication of Haut Parleur newspaper, was arrested, questioned by agents of the Directorate of General Information and charged with “attempted fraud and blackmail” following an interview with the Director of the Mother and Child Hospital in N’Djamena about allegations of corruption. He was tried and acquitted, and released on 22 September.

On 9 September, Bemadjiel Saturnin, a reporter at Radio FM Liberté, was arrested while covering a protest, despite having his professional ID. He was questioned at the central police station and released four hours later.

Enforced disappearances

On 9 April, at least 64 soldiers were victims of enforced disappearance after refusing to vote for the incumbent President. Witnesses described how security forces identified soldiers who supported opposition candidates, ill-treated them at polling stations, abducted them, and tortured them at both recognized and unrecognized detention centres. Forty-nine of the soldiers were released, but the fate of the other 15 was still unclarified at the end of 2016. Following international pressure, the Public Prosecutor opened an investigation into the case of five of the soldiers, but the case was closed after their release. No investigation was undertaken into the allegations of torture and the other cases of disappearance.

Refugees and internally displaced people

More than 389,000 refugees from the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Sudan continued to live in poor conditions in refugee camps.

As a result of attacks and threats by Boko Haram, and security operations by the Chadian military, 105,000 people were internally displaced and 12,000 returned from Nigeria and Niger to the Lake Chad Basin. The deteriorating security situation in the border areas of the Lake Chad region from late July onward affected humanitarian access and the protection of vulnerable populations. Internally displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin lived in dire conditions with extremely limited access to water and sanitation, especially in the Baga-Sola sites of Bol, Liwa and Ngouboua.

Right to an adequate standard of living, education and justice

People continued to flee the escalating violence in the Lake Chad area, disrupting agriculture, trade and fishing with dire economic and social consequences. The volatile security situation exacerbated food insecurity. In September, the UN estimated that 3.8 million people were food insecure, including 1 million people at crisis or emergency level.

Delays in salary payments led to regular public sector strikes, restricting access to education and justice.

In August, the government adopted 16 emergency reform measures to tackle the economic crisis linked to the drop in the price of oil, including cancelling scholarships for university students in the countryside. In response, students organized both peaceful and violent demonstrations in the main cities, including N’Djamena, Sarh, Pala and Bongor.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Despite national law providing for the right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing and timing of their children, to manage their reproductive health, and to have access to the information and means to do so, many people had no access to reproductive information or care, particularly in rural areas. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated that only 3% of women used any form of contraception. According to 2014 figures from the National Institute of Statistics, only 5% of married women used modern contraceptive methods.

In December the National Assembly adopted a reform of the penal code raising the legal age of marriage for girls from 16 to 18 years.

International justice

On 30 May, former President Habré was sentenced to life imprisonment by the EAC in Senegal, a court established under an agreement between the African Union and Senegal. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990. His lawyers lodged an appeal.

On 29 July, the EAC awarded the victims of rape and sexual violence in the case 20 million CFA (US$33,880) each; the victims of arbitrary detention and torture, as well as prisoners of war and survivors, 15 million CFA (US$25,410) each; and the indirect victims, 10 million CFA (US$16,935) each.