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Amnesty International Report 1995 - Djibouti

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1995
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1995 - Djibouti, 1 January 1995, available at: [accessed 18 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.
Many government critics were detained for short periods as prisoners of conscience. A relief worker was sentenced to imprisonment; he was possibly a prisoner of conscience. Scores of suspected rebel supporters in the war zones were arrested and detained without charge or trial. In areas affected by armed conflict, there were reports of torture by government troops, including rape of women, and extrajudicial executions of scores of unarmed civilians. At least one peaceful demonstrator was shot dead.

During the first half of the year the government of President Hassan Gouled Aptidon faced continuing armed opposition from the Front pour la restauration de l'unité et de la démocratie (FRUD), Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy, particularly in the north. Peace talks starting in June led to suspension of fighting and a peace agreement in December.

Hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were detained in June in Arhiba, a poor area in the capital, Djibouti, when they protested against the destruction of temporary shelters erected there by people displaced by the civil war. They appeared to be prisoners of conscience. They were all released without charge after being held for some days.

Baragoita Said, a journalist, and two others were arrested in October for possession of an opposition publication criticizing government leaders. All three were prisoners of conscience. They were provisionally released in December without charge.

In late September Jean-Michel Pouchelle, a French health worker and president of SOS-Africa, a humanitarian organization, was arrested in the north where he was apparently planning a relief project for victims of the armed conflict. He was convicted of illegally entering the north and breaking a previous expulsion order. He may have been a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned on account of his humanitarian activities. He went on hunger-strike in protest at his six-month prison sentence. In December his sentence was increased by the Appeal Court to eight months; he was deported to France to serve the rest of it.

In January the Appeal Court reduced by two months a three-month prison sentence and fine imposed in October 1993 on Mohamed Houmed Soulleh, president of the Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des libertés (ADDHL), Association for the Defence of Human Rights and Liberties, for allegedly defaming the Minister of Defence (see Amnesty International Report 1994). He had already served most of the prison term when he was provisionally released in November 1993.

In the first half of 1994, scores of suspected FRUD supporters were detained for weeks or months without charge by the army in the war zones in the north.

Two government opponents, Awalle Guelle Assowe and Mohamed Hassan Farah, were detained when they returned from exile in January. They were charged with involvement in a bomb attack on a restaurant in 1990 in which a child was killed (see Amnesty International Report 1991). After a few days of provisional release in November they were redetained and were still in custody without trial at the end of the year.

There were several reports in early 1994 of torture, including rape, by government soldiers of people arrested in the war zones in the north.

Government troops were also alleged to have extrajudicially executed scores of unarmed civilians. For instance, at least seven people, including Ali Balla Yousouf, a village chief, were executed in Day district in the northern Tadjourah region in January, apparently in reprisal for army casualties inflicted by FRUD rebels. A commission of inquiry was established into the incident but had not publicly reported its findings by the end of the year. In March at least 36 civilians – men, women and children – were killed by soldiers in Mabla and Oueima regions after renewed fighting in the area.

In June, during the peaceful protests in Arhiba (see above), three peaceful demonstrators were reportedly killed when troops fired indiscriminately into the crowd. The government acknowledged only one death. About 20 other people were wounded. The use of lethal force seemed to have been excessive and unlawful.

Amnesty International appealed for the release of all prisoners of conscience. It called for other suspected government opponents including alleged FRUD supporters who had been arrested to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and given a fair trial, or released. Amnesty International also called for an impartial inquiry into reports of torture and extrajudicial executions by the security forces. It appealed for measures to stop and prevent human rights abuses in the armed conflict.

In November Amnesty International asked the government to inquire into Jean-Michel Pouchelle's conviction and hunger-strike. The government denied he was a prisoner of conscience and said his legal rights were fully respected and that he had received all appropriate medical treatment.

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