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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Djibouti

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Djibouti, 9 June 2007, available at: [accessed 22 November 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.

Population: 721,000
Capital: Djibouti
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The long list of trade union rights violations in the country continued to grow in 2006. The national trade union centre's mail was intercepted and union leaders were repeatedly harassed and arrested, to the point that one leader had to flee the country in fear of his life. When they came to investigate the trade union rights situation, representatives of the ILO, the ICFTU and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) were forcibly expelled from the country.

Trade union rights in law

The new Labour Code calls into question fundamental rights: The new Labour Code, which came into force in January 2006, contravenes the fundamental rights upheld by the ILO, including those on freedom of association, collective bargaining and organising. The social partners were never involved in the drafting work on the Code.

Government authorisation required: Under the new Code, setting up a trade union requires authorisation from the Ministry of the Interior, the Employment Ministry, the Labour Inspectorate, the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General. Any change in the statutes or composition of the leadership of a union has to follow the same authorisation procedure. And should any of the ministries so require, the Attorney General can still refer the application to the civil court to seek the dissolution of the union.

Salary suspended for taking up union post: Article 41, paragraph 8, provides for the suspension of the employment contract and salary of any worker who takes up a union post.

Right to strike limited: While the right to strike is recognised, it is curtailed. The authorities have broad powers to requisition public servants who are on strike, and unions planning strike action must inform the Ministry of the Interior 48 hours in advance.

The Labour Code does not apply to workers in export processing zones.

Trade union rights in practice

The government seriously restricts trade union rights, both in law and in practice.

Using the law against trade unionists: According to the new Labour Code, anyone having been convicted to a prison sentence of more than three months for a number of crimes such as fraud or breach of trust cannot become a union official. As the UDT points out, given Djibouti's record of violating the rule of law, notably sentencing people on false charges, this restriction can in practice become a means of restricting fundamental union rights.

Unrepresentative organisations: The government has been involved in the establishment of unrepresentative trade union organisations that have usurped the names, titles and roles of the existing union centres. For international meetings, the authorities have nominated workers' delegates that are in reality closely linked to it and are not representative. In addition, they have failed to honour the undertakings made during conciliation missions organised by the ILO, the ICFTU and its regional organisation for Africa, AFRO. In 2006 the authorities expelled ILO and ICFTU representatives from the country.

Harassment: Trade unionists are subjected to constant harassment, through dismissals, downgrading and salary cuts. The government accuses union activists of being enemies of the state and does not hesitate to arrest and detain them.

Strikes: In practice strikes are brutally repressed.

Violations in 2006

Harassments, interrogations and arrests of union leaders: On 20 February 2006, Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, Legal Affairs Officer of the Union of Port Workers (affiliated to the UDT), and Mr. Djibril Ismael Egueh, General Secretary of the Maritime and Transit Service Union (SP-MTS, also a UDT affiliate), were arrested the day after they returned to Djibouti from a training course organised by Histadrut, the Israeli union centre. They were released two days later, after being questioned about the training course. Their passports were confiscated and not returned to them. Earlier, on 22 January 2006, Hassan Cher Hared, the UDT's International Relations Secretary, was questioned by officers of the General Intelligence regarding the applications to attend the training course. He had mailed the applications earlier, and the UDT believe the mail had been intercepted.

On 5 March, both men were arrested again. They were asked to sign a document stating that they would not call for a doctor or a lawyer, whatever happened. They refused and their detention was prolonged. Finally, on 8 March a judge ordered that they be sent to the central prison in Djibouti for "sharing information with a foreign power".

On 11 March, Adan Mohamed Abdou, General Secretary of the UDT, and Hassan Cher Hared, were arrested, also for "sharing information with a foreign power". Both men were provisionally released on 29 March, only to be rearrested on 4 April and sent straight to prison without a court order. The arrests came following the lodging of a complaint by the UDT with the ILO concerning the unfair dismissal and early retirement of 12 trade union leaders and representatives from the Port of Djibouti, including Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, in September 2005. The complaint had been intercepted in the post by the intelligence services.

All four men were provisionally released on 6 April but still faced the charge of sharing information with a foreign power, which carries with it a possible prison sentence of 10 to 15 years. One of the four, Djibril Ismael Egueh, had been stripped of his post as union leader by the Employment Minister during his detention and replaced by someone else without any union election being held.

ICFTU, FIDH and ILO representatives expelled: On 4 April Djibouti authorities arrested and expelled an ILO representative tasked with investigating the trade union situation in that country and refused entry to a joint FIDH/ICFTU mission to Djibouti. Mr Ibrahim Mayaki, the ILO representative, had been on an official visit to Djibouti since Saturday 1 April 2006. He was interrogated by police and expelled from the country. The two ICFTU and FIDH representatives were jostled, insulted and forcefully returned to the plane that had brought them to Djibouti. They had been verbally assured by the Minister of the Interior that there would be no obstacle to obtaining an entry visa at Djibouti airport.

Union activist arrested: On 9 August 2006, Mr. Ahmed Souleiman Mohamed, advisor of the General Secretary of the UDT was arrested for no clear reason and sent to jail.

General Secretary of the Postal Workers' Union dismissed: After the non-payment of his salary in August 2006, as a disciplinary measure for unjustified absence, Mr. Hassan Cher Hared finally got sacked by his employer, the Djibouti Post Office while he was participating in a training course at the ILO's training centre in Turin, Italy, for which he had been granted leave from work. Four of his colleagues were also dismissed. The director of the Post Office claimed he was acting upon the orders of the government. Mr. Hassan Cher Hared has repeatedly been the victim of harassment, repression, illegal arrests and detentions for his union activities since 1999. He believed his life to be in danger in Djibouti and finally decided to flee the country and seek asylum abroad.

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