Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2000 - Djibouti

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2000 - Djibouti , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0f60.html [accessed 28 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Republic of Djibouti

Head of state: Ismail Omar Guelleh (replaced Hassan Gouled Aptidon in May)
Head of government: Barkat Gourad Hamadou
Capital: Djibouti
Population: 0.6 million
Official languages: French, Arabic
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes

There was little change in the human rights situation. Some human rights abuses reported were linked to continued fighting between government forces and the armed wing of the Front pour la restauration de l'unité et de la démocratie (FRUD), Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy; there were reports that civilians were killed in areas affected by the conflict. Other reported abuses included the repression of peaceful opposition activists and torture of suspected criminals and refugees.

Background

The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea led to Djibouti becoming Ethiopia's port outlet and closer ties developing between Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Presidential elections

Former security director Ismail Omar Guelleh was elected president in April with three quarters of the vote, and inaugurated in May. He replaced his uncle, President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, in power since independence in 1977. Some 200 opposition members were briefly detained at an election rally in February, five opposition leaders imprisoned for six months in 1996 for criticizing the president were barred from standing for election, and a clan chief was arrested immediately after the elections for calling on people to vote against the government; he was still held at the end of the year.

Armed conflict

There was intermittent fighting between government forces and the FRUD armed group. More than 20 people including civilians were killed by landmines, although both sides denied responsibility for them. There were allegations of killings of civilians by government forces.

Prisoners of conscience and unfair trials

People continued to be imprisoned after unfair trials for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Those targeted included a human rights defender and journalists.

  • Aref Mohamed Aref, a human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, was convicted of embezzlement in February after an unfair trial and given a six-month prison term, a further 18-month suspended sentence, and a fine. He lost his appeal after a brief and unfair court hearing but was granted an amnesty by the new President in May, along with more than 40 convicted criminals. In November he was questioned by police on a charge of defamation in relation to a television interview with a French reporter who was subsequently deported. At the end of the year he remained barred from legal practice and his passport had not been returned to him.
  • Three journalists were arrested in September and October over articles claiming a military helicopter crash was the result of a FRUD attack, which the government denied. Daher Ahmed Farah, leader of the Parti du renouveau démocratique, Party of Democratic Renewal, and editor of the party's newspaper, Le Renouveau, was convicted of spreading false news likely to demoralize the army and sentenced to eight months' imprisonment, reduced on appeal to six months, and a fine. The paper was banned. Ali Meidal Wais, a retired general and editor of Le Temps, the party publication of the Opposition djiboutienne unifiée (ODU), Unified Djiboutian Opposition, received the same sentence. Moussa Ahmed Idriss, a member of parliament who left the ruling party and stood as opposition candidate for the ODU, was arrested for the same offence in October. During his arrest police killed one person, wounded others and beat several people. Moussa Ahmed Idriss was jailed for four months, together with 19 of his relatives, for violently resisting arrest. In October the Inter-Parliamentary Union criticized his arrest and trial. Daher Ahmed Farah, Ali Meidal Wais and Moussa Ahmed Idriss were freed by presidential pardon in December.

Prison conditions

Forty-three people suspected of membership of FRUD who were detained in Gabode prison in the capital went on hunger strike between February and May in protest at denial of access to doctors and at the death of two co-detainees. They had been detained since they were deported from Ethiopia in 1997; none had been tried by the end of the year. In March the government allowed access to the prisoners to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to an international medical team in May.

Refugees

Djibouti continued to host tens of thousands of refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia. In several round-ups of alleged illegal aliens in the capital, hundreds of Ethiopians were arrested and tortured and ill-treated. Women were reportedly raped in police custody.

  • Ibrahim Mohamed Osman, chair of the Ethiopian Oromo refugee community, was arrested in May for alleged links with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which was fighting the Ethiopian government. He remained detained without charge or trial throughout the year.
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