Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 15:02 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Djibouti

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Author Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Djibouti, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 21 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.

Political context

With the prospect of parliamentary elections on February 8, 2008, the authorities further tightened their stranglehold on human rights defenders, especially trade union members, insofar as they are the last independent members of a civil society that is under control and publish evidence of the oppressive nature of the Djibouti regime. By demanding improvement of polling methods that permit the winner of the parliamentary elections to hold all the seats at the National Assembly,1 defenders have clearly demonstrated by which means the coalition of parties that forms the Government, the Union for the Presidential Majority (Union de la majorité présidentielle – UMP), remains in power.

2007 was also marked by the International Labour Conference (ILC) firm urging of the Djibouti authorities to comply with their international obligations on the rights to freedom of association, which were systematically violated, and to end repression of union members.2 Various committees of the 96th Session of the ILC also called for the revocation of several provisions of the Labour Code that came into effect in January 2006,3 and which seems to have been drawn up to reinforce the methods of pressurising the unions, for the reinstatement of union members who had been dismissed and for respect for trade union freedom.

Systematic muzzling of the union movement

In 2007, union officials continued to be the target of multiple acts of harassment, primarily through judicial proceedings and wrongful dismissal. Thus, by the end of 2007, judicial proceedings based on accusations of "supplying information to a foreign power", "secret contacts with a foreign power" and "outrage to the President" that were instituted in March 2006 against Mr. Adan Mohamed Abdou, Secretary General of the Djibouti Labour Union (Union djiboutienne du travail – UDT), Mr. Hassan Cher Hared, UDT International Relations Secretary, Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, Head of Legal Affairs of the Port Workers' Union (Union des travailleurs du port – UTP), and Mr. Djibril Ismael Egueh, Secretary General of the Maritime and Transit Service Union (Syndicat personnel maritime et du service de transit – SP-MTS), were still pending.4 Since then, Mr. Hassan Cher Hared and Mr. Djibril Ismael Egueh, who suffered harassment in their work, have left the country. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association considered in its latest report that the dismissal of Mr. Cher Hared in September 2006 was a serious case of violation and "urge[d] the Government to launch an inquiry without delay [..] and, if it is found that the dismissal was based on anti-union grounds, to reinstate [him] and pay him any wage arrears owed to him".5 At the end of 2007, he Djibouti Government has still not responded to this decision.

The authorities also resorted to other forms of action to prevent union officials from denouncing their abuses. Since they were charged in February 2006, the travel documents of Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed and Mr. Djibril Ismael Egueh have been held by the intelligence services. Telephone bugging and the interception of mail also remained common. For example, several UDT complaints addressed to the ILO were intercepted. However, during the ILC in June 2007, the Government agreed to receive a direct contact mission due to take place as from January 21, 2008. On May 3, 2007 the Government also refused entry visas to an international trade union solidarity mission.6

A further tactic used to weaken lawful unions was the creation, with the agreement of the Ministry of Employment and National Solidarity, of a fake union made up of members close to the authorities and secret service agents, with the intention of discrediting the allegations of union members during conferences and international meetings.

Arbitrary arrests of defenders in the run up to the elections

With the approach of the elections in February 2008, human rights defenders were increasingly the target of acts of intimidation. In December 2007, the President of the Djibouti League of Human Rights (Ligue djiboutienne des droits humains – LDDH), Mr. Jean-Paul Noël Abdi, was again arrested after the publication of a statement reporting the corruption of the ruling authorities and the risk of electoral fraud during the polls. His transfer to the Nagad detention centre, 40 kilometres from the city of Djibouti, which is officially used to hold persons due to be escorted back to the border, is an illustration of the methods used against human rights defenders, journalists or other persons the authorities consider as opponents. In the course of the year, Mr. Abdi had already been the object of proceedings for "defamation", "divulging false news" and "slanderous denunciation" following the publication of a press release questioning the role of the military authorities in cases of summary executions of civilians during fighting in January 1994, and condemning the rape of a young girl by an army corporal in 2007. Mr. Abdi was only released following the intervention of the Observatory, which appointed Mr. Michel Tubianaas his defence lawyer and who highlighted the unfair nature of the trial and of the judicial procedure.7 These irregularities were also condemned by the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) on Human Rights Defenders in Africa.8 Finally, the authorities also confiscated his passport on March 11, 2007, the day of his release, to prevent him from attending a human rights conference.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

1 The electoral list system in a single round of voting strongly favours the majority party. Thus, despite an official score of around 30% in the previous parliamentary elections, opposition parties were not represented in Parliament.

2 See in particular the Report of the Committee on the Application of Standards and the Credentials Committee, 96th session of the International Labour Conference, June 2007.

3 See Observatory Annual Report 2006.

4 These proceedings were subsequent to participation in a training course led by an Israeli union confederation and the filing of a complaint concerning the retirement and wrongful dismissal of union officials.

5 See 348th Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association, paragraph 560 (b), November 2007.

6 The Committee on Freedom of Association urged the Government to respond to allegations of barring a mission from entering, and arresting and interrogating the only member of the mission allowed to enter the country – an ILO official. (See 348th Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association, paragraph 560 (c), November 2007).

7 On April 11, 2007, the Djibouti Court of Appeal sentenced Mr. Jean-Paul Noël Abdi to one year in prison, including 11 months' suspended sentence and a fine of 300,000 Djibouti francs. He appealed against the sentence on June 24, 2007.

8 See Press Release on the harassment of Mr. Jean-Paul Noël Abdi by the Special Rapporteur of the ACHPR on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, March 16, 2007.

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