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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Chad

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Chad, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3e40.html [accessed 30 September 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.
 

 

A Transitional Government headed by President Idriss Deby, who took power in a December 1990 coup, continues to govern Chad. A 1993 Sovereign National Conference confirmed Deby as Chief of State for the transition, established the Transitional Government now headed by Prime Minister Kassire Coumakoye, elected 57 counselors to the quasi-legislative Higher Transitional Council (CST), and adopted the Transitional Charter as an interim constitutional document. The Charter provided for a 1-year period of transition to establish a Constitution and hold elections, with the possibility of a one-time extension. Little having been achieved in the first year of the transition, the CST voted to extend the transition for a second year, through April 9, 1995, and established target dates for a constitutional referendum and presidential and legislative elections. Under the Charter, there is no provision for further extension of the transition.

Security forces composed of the army, the gendarmerie, and police, are responsible for internal security. President Deby remained in control of the security forces, which were responsible for serious human rights abuses, including acts of reprisal against the civilian population.

Chad has a population of 6.3 million and an estimated annual per capita income of $180. Over 78 percent of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, fishing, and stock raising. The Government relies heavily on external financial assistance. Pervasive corruption at all levels and a heavy black market trade severely limited government customs receipts, discouraged local production and marketing, and restricted the cash economy. Little was done to reform the collection of customs duties, the major source of government revenues.

Killings by security forces and the Government's failure to prosecute those responsible continued to be the major human rights abuses. Army units continued acts of reprisal against the civilian population, yet enjoyed de facto immunity from prosecution. Security force personnel continue to physically abuse detainees. There were credible reports that at least one prisoner had been beaten to the point of unconsciousness by personnel acting under the authority of the Presidency. The criminal justice system remained largely nonfunctional. Nine persons who were arrested in October 1993 for allegedly plotting a coup were never brought to trial. They were held at a jail in the presidential compound, possibly with other political detainees, then granted amnesty by President Deby on December 1.

Prison conditions were appalling, both at the main prison in the capital and elsewhere. Because of the breakdown of the criminal justice system, persons arrested for crimes had little hope of a prompt trial. Additional human rights abuses included: abuse of civilians' rights in conflict situations; discrimination and mistreatment of women and children; and the inability of citizens to change their government.

The Government did not interfere with freedom of expression. The state-run radio broadcast statements by opposition leaders, and an opposition press with limited circulation criticized the Government's actions. Labor unions operated freely.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The armed forces continued to commit extrajudicial killings with impunity in reprisals against civilians accused of complicity with rebels. Rebel groups were likewise responsible for killings and other serious human rights abuses. On January 23, personnel belonging to the National Front of Chad (FNT), a rebel group which had earlier come over to the government side, rebelled against government forces and attempted to take control of Abeche, the principal city in eastern Chad. FNT members attacked army and gendarmerie headquarters, singling out members of certain ethnic groups. The FNT rebels beat the mainly northern troops savagely, allowing southerners to leave. The revolt ended within a few hours, and the FNT rebels fled into the countryside. In the following days and weeks, the army carried out unrestrained reprisals against the local population in Abeche and surrounding villages, accusing the population of complicity with the FNT. Army personnel engaged in the killing of unarmed civilians, looting, and rape. Subsequent thorough investigations by human rights organizations and a committee of the Transitional Parliament counted 201 dead, of which 124 were FNT, presumably combatants. This total is probably low; survivors were taumatized and often reluctant to talk freely to investigators. The Government took no action to punish the army personnel responsible for the killings of noncombatants.

On November 20, the criminal court meeting in Abeche handed down a verdict against nine persons involved in the August 4, 1993, massacre at the village of Gniguilim. In that attack, 82 persons were killed and 105 wounded by men armed with automatic weapons, following an ethnic quarrel. The court, in its first session in Abeche since 1987, handed down death sentences against five persons, four in absentia, and sentenced the remaining defendants to 12 years in prison.

In the south, both government troops and rebels continued to terrorize the local population. One southern rebel group, the National Re-Awakening Committee for Peace and Democracy (CSNPD), led by former Lieutenant Moise Kette, negotiated an agreement with the Government in which the CSNPD agreed to lay down arms and operate as a legal political party.

On June 26, a southern rebel group probably associated with Lieutenant Moise Kette attacked the market town of Ba-Illi, which had no military garrison of any significance. Troops attacked and killed 24 people and looted the market. All the victims but one were Muslims, targeted because of their religion.

On August 11 near Moundou in southern Chad, a patrol of the army's first regiment sustained several casualties in a clash with rebels. The unit subsequently returned to the village of Mbalkabra and killed at least 31 villagers suspected of complicity with the rebels. Army personnel burned several villages and tortured a local official. Although a ministerial delegation sent by the President established the facts, and authorities subsequently arrested officers reportedly responsible for the massacre, the Government did not acknowledge responsibility for the massacre. Moreover, its only public statement about the incident remains a denial by the Minister of Defense that it took place. The public prosecutor's office began an investigation of the charges, but by year's end no trial had been held.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the Transitional Charter specifically prohibits torture and degrading or humiliating treatment, the Government failed to stop incidents of brutality by security forces. In one case, there is a credible report that either the Republican Guards or the domestic intelligence service (Renseignements Generaux) used violence in interrogating a prisoner, causing him to become disoriented and lose consciousness. That prisoner, and others, suffered cruel mistreatment in extrajudicial custody at a prison in the presidency compound and at other places. One political detainee reported that he had been held in a "small, dark, nasty room filled with rats and insects," that he was given only water and a sandwich every 3 days, and that his hands were kept bound with wire for some 45 days. He reported that, at some sites, he smelled what he guessed to be "dead human bodies," and that a fellow prisoner suffered a paralyzed hand and hearing injury to both ears to the point of near deafness, indicating his possible trture.

Reports of abuse in custody arose in connection with nine persons detained in the alleged Koty coup plot. Their families and lawyers were denied access to these detainees. Human rights groups and doctors were permitted visits, but the Koty 9 have reported to the Chadian League of Human Rights (LTDH) that 2 weeks prior to their May 14 interview some 19 persons were allegedly tortured overnight at the facility where they were held, then taken elsewhere.

Prison conditions continued to be appalling and life- threatening, characterized by overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of medical facilities, inadequate food, and mixing of male and female prisoners. In March and April, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) made its first visits to places of detention linked to the Ministry of Justice, the National Police in N'Djamena and Abeche. Later on, the ICRC obtained authorization to process a second round of visits in places of detention already visited, as well as ones linked to the Ministry of Justice and the National Police at Moundou and Duba, and finally the ones run by the Ministry of Defense in N'Djamena, Abeche and Moundou, and Doba.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Penal Code and the Transitional Charter provide formal safeguards against arbitrary arrest, but in practice the authorities often do not respect these provisions. Military and security organizations retained and used the de facto authority to arrest or detain citizens without a warrant and without remanding the detainee for a trial.

Security forces reportedly engage in extrajudicial arrests and detentions. One detainee reported from personal observation that as many as 30 persons were held by the domestic intelligence service near the presidency.

On July 15, soldiers abducted Mahamat Koty, brother of President Deby's assassinated rival Colonel Abbas Koty, and Dr. Abdelaziz Kadouk of the Maternity Hospital in connection with the alleged coup plot of October 1993. On October 22, police conducted Dr. Kadouk to the Central Hospital with heart problems, where Chadian human rights organizations had access to him. Police never charged either Koty or Kadouk, and these 2 were among 11 political detainees granted amnesty by President Deby on December 1 and subsequently released.

The Government did not use exile as a political weapon.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Breakdown of the criminal justice system rendered the courts generally inoperable. Special courts were inactive, as were courts-martial. Most rural areas do not have access to formal judicial institutions and rely on traditional courts presided over by village chiefs and chefs de canton or sultans in most civil cases. Citizens may appeal their decisions, which in most cases are respected by the population, to a formal court.

Trials in civil cases continued, but the criminal justice system tried only one major case in 1994. Despite emphasis on reform of the justice system at the 1993 National Conference, the Government did not implement any reforms. Government and military interference contributed to the breakdown of the judicial system, and members of the security and armed forces continued to have de facto immunity from prosecution.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Transitional Charter provides for citizens' rights to privacy of home and correspondence, freedom from arbitrary arrest and search, and liberties of association. The Penal Code further stipulates that police may search homes only during daylight hours and only with a legal warrant. In practice, security forces conducted searches without legal warrant, day and night. In some cases, they mistreated and extorted money from their victims.

The Government also engaged in telephone surveillance of its citizens without judicial supervision.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

Continuing conflict between rebel groups and the army led to serious human rights abuses by both sides, victimizing the civilian population. Chadian armed forces, with impunity, routinely abused the rights of the civilian population. In addition, customs personnel routinely used excessive and sometimes lethal force against the population, including one shooting in the N'Djamena market in October which led to a sympathy strike by all merchants.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Transitional Charter provides for freedom of speech and press, but in practice the Government controls access to radio, the most important medium, and to the sole television station, TVT, which it also runs. Although opposition statements are generally broadcast on both radio and television, opposition politicians complained that in some instances their declarations were not broadcast on government radio. The independent press publishes articles openly criticizing the Government and political figures. Opposition tracts are distributed without interference by the Government.

The academic system is primarily state supported. Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Transitional Charter provides for freedom of association and assembly, and in general these rights were respected.

Authorities routinely granted permits for political and nongovernmental organization (NGO) meetings, and the Government generally did not interfere in meetings or press conferences. In one case, however, a former prime minister's party was denied the use of a government facility. The Minister of Interior barred human rights groups from presenting a series of preelection seminars in Sarh, Moundou, and other major population centers, despite the fact that the Prime Minister had authorized the seminars. On December 23, the Minister of Interior prevented a meeting of opposition parties, despite the signing by the President a few days earlier of a law guaranteeing political parties the right to meet freely.

There are now about 50 authorized political parties and several hundred NGO's.

c. Freedom of Religion

Chad is a secular state, and all faiths worship without government constraint.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government did not require special permission for travel within most areas of the country. Security forces, rebels and armed criminals continued to operate illegal roadblocks in the countryside, in contravention of the orders of the Transitional Government.

Chadians were free to emigrate. About 3,600 refugees remained in Niger, a consequence of the mid-1992 fighting between government forces and rebels in the Lake Chad region. Approximately 21,000 refugees who fled after their villages were attacked by the Republican Guard in early 1993 remained in the Central African Republic. There are about 43,000 Chadian refugees in Cameroon, the majority of whom fled when Hissein Habre took power in 1982. These refugees are free to repatriate but have chosen not to do so, fearful of unsafe security conditions in their home regions.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have this right. By definition, the regime government is a transitional one, with the limited mandate to rule in accordance with the Transitional Charter. President Deby pledged free and fair elections before the end of the transition in April 1995, but there was little progress in 1994 in creating the conditions for free and fair elections, making it unlikely that this goal can be met. The CST adopted a law creating an electoral commission which was signed by President Deby in December, but opposition parties are still negotiating with the Government over conditions for their participation in the commission.

Although the law grants women political equality and protection, women are underrepresented in the Government. While women were active in the National Conference, cultural biases prevent their full integration into political life. There is only one female cabinet member, and only 4 of the 57 members of the Transitional Parliament are women.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of human rights organizations including the Chadian Human Rights League continued to operate. These groups published reports of human rights abuses without government constraint. The Transitional Parliament (CST) commissioned a special investigation and report on the January massacres at Abeche. The CST also denounced human rights abuses by security personnel in gathering fees from citizens, but its oversight of government conduct did not lead to effective action to punish those responsible.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission's Special Rapporteur for Chad, Mrs. M'Bam Diarra N'Doure, President of the Human Rights League of Mali, investigated human rights conditions in November. The ICRC visited Chad regularly and was allowed access to prisons. An international organization, the Association for Victims of Repression in Exile has been active in the rehabilitation of victims of torture. A delegation of the International Human Rights Federation visited in October and met with President Deby.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Transitional Charter provides for equal rights for all citizens, regardless of sex, race, religion, or origin. In practice, however, women experience significant job discrimination and spousal abuse.

Women

Although the Transitional Charter provides that women have equal rights with men, culture and tradition among various ethnic groups perpetuate the de facto subordinate status of women, especially in rural areas where women do much of the heavy farm labor and have little opportunity for education or wage employment. Women receive one-third of the education of men. The law does not discriminate against women in property and inheritance rights, but traditional practice favors men.

Several women hold high positions in the Government as well as in commerce and the professions. There are many women's advocacy groups, such as the Association of Women in Distress in Chad and the Association of Women Jurists.

Domestic violence against women, including wife beating, is common, and women have only limited recourse against abusive practices. Police rarely intervene; women usually rely on family or ethnic leaders to resolve such cases.

Children

Neither the Transitional Charter nor other laws provide explicitly for the rights of children, and there are few active programs that address them.

Female Genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread and performed on females at a young age. The practice is deeply rooted in tradition, both in the north and the south. Despite its severe adverse consequences for women's physical and mental health, it and is strongly advocated by many Chadians, women as much as men. The Government took no action to prohibit this practice.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The approximately 200 ethnic groups are roughly divided among Saharan/Sahelian and Arab Muslims in the northern, central, and eastern regions, and Sudanian zone ethnic groups, who practice Christianity or animist religions, in the south. Much of the sustained civil conflict since 1964 has revolved around ethnic differences. Currently, well-armed ethnic minorities close to the President, representing just over 1 percent of the population, exercise authority over military and civilian government decisions. Ethnicity also influences ministerial appointments.

People with Disabilities

Although there is no official discrimination directed against the disabled, the Government has taken no action to improve conditions or access for disabled persons. The disabled have little opportunity for wage employment, advanced therapy, or special education, although private associations for the disabled exist and are active.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Transitional Charter specifically recognizes labor's right to organize. Workers are free to join or form unions of their choice. Only the military are prohibited from joining unions, and government authorization is required before unions can operate.

The right to strike and organize was generally respected. An exception was an April 29 decree which attempted to regulate the right to strike, which was abrogated after widespread protests and a brief police occupation of the labor union headquarters which ended without violence after a few days.

Most Chadians work in subsistence agriculture or livestock raising. Government employees, including teachers and workers in the few state-owned enterprises, constitute the majority of union members. The dominant union federation remained the Federation of Chadian Unions (UST), whose major component is the Teachers' Union of Chad. A second, smaller federation, the Free Federation of Chadian workers, continued to operate. Neither union had organizational, financial, or procedural ties to the Government.

Although no information is available about the outcome of specific cases, International Labor Organization (ILO) bodies regularly reviewed complaints from the UST against the Government stemming from antiunion discrimination, firings, forced retirements and other actions. The Government's labor relations suffered when it was not able to keep its side of a social pact with the unions, which provided for a 10 percent wage increase.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law does not specifically protect collective bargaining. Both the Transitional Charter and the pre-Transition Labor Code still in effect contain only generalized provisions for the rights of labor. Under the current law, the Government sets minimum wage standards and unions may bargain collectively.

The law does not specifically prohibit antiunion discrimination. Although no complaints of such discrimination were reported, there is no formal mechanism for resolving them should they arise. There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although there is no specific legal prohibition on forced or compulsory labor, no evidence indicates forced or compulsory labor occurs.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law stipulates that the minimum age for employment of children is 14 in the wage sector, but the Ministry of Civil Service and Labor does not effectively enforce this law. In practice, children are rarely employed except in agriculture. Several hundred young people between the ages of 14 and 17 reportedly serve in the armed forces.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government continued to review a draft labor and social welfare code conforming to international conventions. Wage standards established under previous governments remain unchanged.

Wages remain insufficient to support subsistence, much less maintain an adequate standard of living. For example, the minimum monthly professional wage in 1994 was about $46 (24,000 CFA). In addition, salary arrears of 4 to 5 months in N'Djamena and up to 8 months in rural areas for civil servants, combined with no pay for some soldiers, have forced most employees to seek other employment, engage in subsistence agriculture, or rely on the extended family. The law limits most nonagricultural work to 48 hours per week, with overtime paid for supplementary hours. Agricultural workers are statutorily limited to 2,400 workhours per year. All workers are entitled to 24 consecutive hours of rest per week. The Labor Code recognizes the need for occupational health and safety standards, including labor inspectors with the authority to enforce them. There is, however, no indication that such health and safety standards exist in practice, nor that inspectors have been appointed.

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