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Amnesty International Report 1994 - Comoros

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1994
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1994 - Comoros, 1 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9f434.html [accessed 21 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.
Opposition members of the National Assembly were detained. More than 70 soldiers arrested in 1992 remained in detention without charge or trial and some were reportedly held incommunicado. Nine people (including four in absentia) were sentenced to death and five others received lengthy prison terms after an unfair trial at which they were convicted of offences against state security. However, the death sentences on those in custody were commuted and prison terms on others were reduced. Some of the prisoners were subjected to harsh prison conditions and ill-treatment.

The political situation remained unstable, as the opposition-dominated National Assembly repeatedly voted down governments appointed by President Saïd Mohamed Djohar, until the President dissolved the Assembly in June and ordered new elections to take place in December.

No investigations were carried out into reports of torture and extrajudicial executions during 1992 (see Amnesty International Report 1993).

Two opposition members of the National Assembly, Maître El Bak and Cheikh Ali Bakar Cassim, were arrested in June after they had publicly criticized President Djohar's dissolution of the National Assembly. They were detained in the capital, Moroni, and released two days later without charge. They were prisoners of conscience. The independent local radio station which broadcast their criticisms was temporarily closed down by the authorities. The two men were arrested again in November, but released without charge on the same day, after electoral meetings by government candidates were disrupted.

Violence erupted on the island of Anjouan, after members of opposition parties were elected following the first round of legislative elections on 12 December. Ahmed Mohamed Fouad, an opposition deputy, and seven of his colleagues were arrested by members of the gendarmerie, the day after his election victory was announced. They were first held at Koki prison in Mutsamudu where some of them were allegedly ill-treated, then transferred to Moroni prison. It was unclear whether they were charged.

Two people were reportedly shot dead and secretly buried by members of the gendarmerie after rioting in Anjouan on the eve of the second round of the legislative elections on 20 December.

More than 70 soldiers were reportedly held incommunicado throughout the year, apparently without charge or trial. At least 50 were held at Moroni's Kandani military barracks; about 27 others, all members of the Presidential Guard, were held at Moroni Prison. All those held had been among dozens of members of the security forces who had been arrested in late 1992 in connection with a coup attempt in September 1992 and the mutiny that followed (see Amnesty International Report 1993).

Most civilians arrested in 1992 in connection with the coup attempt were reportedly freed without trial early in the year.

Sixteen people, four in absentia, were tried in April by the State Security Court on charges related to the 1992 coup attempt. Two former ministers, Dr M'Tara Maecha and Omar Tamou, and seven soldiers, four tried in absentia, were sentenced to death. The soldiers included two sons of former President Mohammed Abdallah, Lieutenant Abdallah Ahmed Cheik and Lieutenant Abderahmane Ahmed Abdallah, both of whom were present in court. Five other defendants received prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years and two others were acquitted.

The trial was unfair: defence lawyers had limited access to the defendants and their case dossiers; the independence of the court was in question as the judges and assessors were appointed by the government for renewable one-year terms and may not have been adequately trained in law; and there was no right of appeal.

In April Dr M'Tara Maecha and Omar Tamou went on hunger-strike at Moroni Prison in protest against their sentences and being denied regular visits by their relatives, who brought them food. They gave up their hunger-strike after a week and were then transferred to hospital.

The three imprisoned soldiers under sentence of death were reportedly held in cramped, humid and poorly ventilated cells without sanitary facilities at Kandani barracks, given inadequate food and denied regular visits by their relatives and medical care. Former President Abdallah's sons were said to have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment.

In May the government commuted the death sentences on the five prisoners in custody to life imprisonment and reduced the prison sentences that had been imposed to two years with hard labour. In September a further reduction in sentences was announced, the life sentences being reduced to 20 years' imprisonment.

Amnesty International urged President Djohar to ensure that all reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, including the alleged ill-treatment of Hassan Arouna (see Amnesty International Report 1993), were thoroughly and urgently investigated, and that those responsible for such abuses were brought to justice. It called for an impartial inquiry to be initiated into alleged extrajudicial executions in October 1992.

Amnesty International also expressed concern about the prolonged incommunicado detention of those held in connection with the 1992 coup attempt and urged that they should either be brought to trial promptly and fairly or released. Following the State Security Court trial, Amnesty International appealed for the commutation of death sentences and urged that all those convicted should be given a retrial in accordance with international standards for fair trial.

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