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Amnesty International Report 1994 - Djibouti

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1994
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1994 - Djibouti, 1 January 1994, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
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.
One prisoner of conscience, a human rights activist, was imprisoned for two months for criticizing human rights violations by the army. Eleven other prisoners of conscience, held since 1991 and serving prison sentences imposed after an unfair trial in 1992, were released in December 1993. There were new reports of torture, including rape and ill-treatment, and of dozens of extrajudicial executions by government soldiers. The only death sentence was commuted.

President Hassan Gouled Aptidon was re-elected for a fourth six-year term in May. His government continued to face armed opposition from the Front pour la restauration de l'unité et de la démocratie (FRUD), Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy. Killings and other abuses by the army led to tens of thousands of members of the Afar ethnic group, from which the FRUD drew support, fleeing to Ethiopia, and many more were displaced within the country.

Mohamed Houmed Soulleh, president of the non-governmental human rights group, the Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des libertés (ADDHL), Association for the Defence of Human Rights and Liberties, was arrested in the capital, Djibouti, in September. Initially held incommunicado, he was charged with defaming the Defence Minister and publishing false information. The ADDHL had published reports of recent killings and other human rights violations by the army, including the killing of Mohamed Houmed Soulleh's brother (see below). The charges related to the ADDHL's accusation that soldiers had shot at members of an independent inquiry investigating the killings. The government had denied the soldiers were responsible and blamed the shooting on the rebels. Mohamed Houmed Soulleh, who was a prisoner of conscience, continued to be detained despite a magistrate's order for his provisional release, and went on hunger-strike in protest. In late October, after a trial which appeared to fall short of international standards, he was convicted and sentenced to three months' imprisonment and a fine. He was provisionally released in mid-November pending the judgment on his appeal, which had not been given by the end of the year.

Ali Aref, a former head of government, 10 other prisoners of conscience, and two other prisoners, continued to serve long prison terms imposed after an unfair trial in July 1992 (see Amnesty International Report 1993). The Cassation Court rejected their appeal in June. Also in June they went on hunger-strike to demand improvements in prison conditions, which were granted. One detainee, Mohamed Hassanleh Abakari, a police lieutenant, died in custody in August after an operation. On 15 December Ali Aref and all the 12 remaining prisoners in the same case were given a presidential pardon and released.

There were reports of torture and ill-treatment by the security forces. The victims included criminal prisoners, Ethiopian refugees detained in Djibouti town and Afar civilians who were suspected of links with the FRUD in areas affected by armed conflict. Afar women and girls were reported to have been raped by soldiers. Over 100 people arrested in different parts of the north in early September were reported to have been tortured at a military post near Lake Asal by having burning pieces of paper and plastic placed on their bodies.

Extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations by the army during operations against FRUD forces were reported in February in Tadjourah district, and again in September in Tadjourah, Mabla and Obock districts in the north, and Dhikil district in the southwest. Kamil Houmed Soulleh, a postal worker and brother of Mohamed Houmed Soulleh (see above), was arrested with another man in Randa town on 5 September: both were found dead the next day. Over 60 other Afar civilians were reportedly extrajudicially executed by soldiers in rural areas in the north in mid-September.

In June the President commuted the death sentence imposed on Adouani Hamouda Ben Hassan in 1991 for a bomb attack four years earlier. He had been the only person condemned to death in Djibouti since independence in 1977.

Amnesty International appealed for the release of human rights activist Mohamed Houmed Soulleh, and Ali Aref and other prisoners of conscience held with him. It called for a thorough and impartial inquiry into reports of extrajudicial executions and torture, including rape, by the security forces and for steps to be taken to prevent further violations by government forces.

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