Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Djibouti

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Djibouti, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 24 January 2018]
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: 889,000
Capital: Djibouti

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Arrests: 117

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Workers daring to strike were systematically arrested during 2011. Strikers arrested included nurses, railway workers and, in the worst case, dock workers, 62 of whom were imprisoned for two weeks. The authorities confiscated the head office of the UDT. Legitimate trade union activities have in effect been totally stamped out.


In April, President Ismaël Guelleh was re-elected with over 80% of the vote. Human rights organisations and the opposition, which boycotted the elections, described the poll as a "masquerade". All voices of dissent continued to be silenced, arbitrary arrests were made in huge numbers and detainees were tortured.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association is strictly regulated by a 2006 Labour Code that can at best be described as unfriendly to unions. When registering a trade union, the Minister of Labour takes into account not only the appropriate union documents, but also reports by the Labour inspector, thereby giving virtual discretionary powers to the public authorities. The Law on Associations also requires prior authorisation in order to register a union. Any changes in a union's statutes or leadership must go through the same procedures as when registering the union.

Furthermore, if one of the ministries demands the dissolution of a union, the Chief Public Prosecutor can approach a civil court to obtain said dissolution. Accession to union office means the almost automatic suspension of the employment contract, and any person convicted "by any court" may not hold a leadership position. The President has vast powers to requisition civil servants in essential services.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Harassment and repression immobilise unions: As in previous years, the ILO expressed its deep concern at the government's blatant lack of any real will to address several cases of trade unions rights violations. Trade union representatives and members are subjected to constant harassment by the authorities. The government accuses trade union activists of being enemies of the state, and as a such, they are arrested, imprisoned, transferred or dismissed. Strikes are brutally repressed. Organisations are refused registration or are made so weak that in effect they can no longer operate.


UDT head office confiscated: In October, the authorities confiscated the head office of the trade union centre Union djiboutienne du travail (UDT), which is, in effect, no longer in operation. The premises were allocated to the Youth and Sports Ministry. In recent years, clone unions, backed by the government, have replaced legitimate workers' organisations. They are under the authorities' complete control.

Sixty two dock workers brutally assaulted and imprisoned for nearly two weeks:

On 2 January, during a peaceful demonstration in front of the parliament to demand unpaid wage compensation, dock workers were rounded up by police and brutally assaulted. Sixty two workers were arrested and placed in detention, where some were beaten. They were denied medical care and visits by relatives or lawyers. They were released on 15 January.

The dockers' trade union has found it impossible to function over recent years. According to the human rights group Association pour le respect des droits de l'homme à Djibouti (ARDHD) and the trade union centre Union djiboutienne du travail (UDT), all recent attempts to organise trade union elections have failed because of repression by employers and the authorities. Several dockers used "trade union alibis". Many workers suspected of being ringleaders or who simply demanded respect for their rights had their dockers' cards withdrawn and were not allowed to work.

Striking railway workers and nurses detained: On 20 April, 55 railway workers were arrested and briefly detained for having demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister's Office. They were demanding the payment of eight months' wage arrears. Three days later, several nurses from the Dar El Hanan maternity hospital were arrested on the same grounds.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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