Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2017, 11:48 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Djibouti

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 18 June 2009
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Djibouti, 18 June 2009, available at: [accessed 19 October 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

Unsurprisingly, the legislative elections of February 8, 2008 allowed the People's Rally for Progress (Rassemblement populaire pour le progrès – RPP), the party of President Ismail Omar Guelleh, to win the 65 seats at stake. Indeed, the opposition parties had decided to boycott this election to protest against the lack of reforms of the Electoral Code, which were claimed since the parliamentary elections of 2003.1 The election period in Djibouti was also once again marked by the silencing of both the opposition and civil society.

Assimilation of defenders with political opponents in the electoral context and ongoing judicial harassment against those denouncing the use of force by the authorities

As the elections of February 2008 approached, human rights defenders were subject to intimidation. While several leaders of the opposition parties were under house arrest on February 1 to prevent an opposition rally organised in the framework of the election campaign,2 Mr. Jean-Paul Noël-Abdi, President of the Djibouti League of Human Rights (Ligue djiboutienne des droits humains – LDDH), was prevented on the same day from leaving his home by members of the armed forces. The reason given by the authorities was to prevent the opposition rally. This confirms the assimilation by those in power of human rights defenders with political opponents. In December 2007, Mr. Noël-Abdi had already been arrested following a press release denouncing the risk of electoral fraud.

Moreover, defenders denouncing the use of force by authorities were also subjected to harassment. On November 29, 2008 for instance, the trial of Mr. Jean-Paul Noël-Abdi before the Supreme Court was postponed sine die. This trial was initiated in 2007 following the publication by the President of LDDH of an informational note on the discovery of a mass grave in the village of Day, which included the bodies of seven civilians who were killed by Government forces in 1994. Throughout the trial, irregularities marred the proceedings. Several written requests formulated by the attorney appointed by the Observatory, by which the latter asked permission to appear before the Supreme Court, went unanswered, even though other Djiboutian and foreign lawyers pleaded before this court in other cases.

Systematic muzzling of the trade union movement

Since the entry into force of the new Labour Code in 2006, and despite repeated calls by the International Labour Conference to Djiboutian authorities in June 2007 to comply with their international obligations, the rights of trade unionists continued to be violated and several muzzling strategies were implemented (confiscation of travel documents, judicial harassment, restrictions on freedom of association). In early May 2008, Mr. Adan Mohamed Abdou, Secretary General of the Djiboutian Labour Union (Union djiboutienne du travail – UDT), was summoned twice by the Government and threatened with reprisals if he did not renounce his responsibility in the leadership of UDT. In 2008, the Government also actively contributed to the establishment of non-independent and non-representative trade unions that usurp the name, qualifications and role of existing trade unions.

Given the seriousness of the situation of trade unionists, a "direct contacts mission" of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) visited Djibouti in January 2008. The mission recommended the inclusion of UDT within the delegation of workers for the 97th session of the International Labour Conference, held in June 2008. To fulfil this recommendation, the Government formally included UDT in the delegation but used a subterfuge to prevent it from participating. Thus, Mr. Adan Mohamed Abdou was informed upon arrival at the Conference that he had been dismissed by false documents signed by Mr. Mohamed Youssouf Mohamed, former President of a pro-Government organisation that usurped UDT's name. The ILO Credentials Committee reported that it had been referred to by Mr. Adan Mohamed Abdou and Mr. Kamil Diraneh Hared, Secretary General of the General Union of Djiboutian Workers (Union générale des travailleurs djiboutiens – UGTD), who requested the invalidation of the credentials of the Djiboutian delegation. In a supplementary communication, the authors of the referral alleged that Mr. Mohamed Youssouf Mohamed improperly used UDT's letterhead and proceeded to false signatures on the orders of the Government.3 In its report to the 97th session of the International Labour Conference, the Committee considered that these practices were representative of non-compliance with the principles of freedom of association in the country and acts of interference by the Government in trade union affairs. In addition, for the Committee, "it now seem[ed] clear that there is a problem of legitimacy of the people supposedly representing UDT".4 The Committee urged "the Government to guarantee the implementation of a procedure based on objective and transparent criteria for the nomination of the Workers' representatives in future sessions of the Conference", and stressed that it expected "the nomination can be finally made in the spirit of cooperation between all the parties concerned, in a climate of confidence that fully respects the ability of the workers' organizations to act in total independence from the Government, in accordance with ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98".

Urgent Interventions issued by The Observatory in 20085

Names of human rights defendersViolationsIntervention ReferenceDate of Issuance
Mr. Jean-Paul Noël-AbdiHarassment / House arrestUrgent Appeal DJI 001/0208/OBS 014February 1, 2008
Judicial harassmentPress ReleaseNovember 14, 2008
Judicial harassmentPress ReleaseDecember 4, 2008

1 In these elections, all the seats in Parliament had been allocated to the presidential party while opposition parties obtained 38% of the vote.

2 Mr. Ahmed Youssouf Ahmed, President of the Republican Alliance for Development (Alliance républicaine pour le développement – ARD), Mr. Ismael Guedi Hared, President of the Union for Democracy and Justice (Union pour la démocratie et la justice – UDJ), and Mr. Souleiman Farah Lodon, Vice-President of the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (Mouvement pour le renouveau démocratique et le développement – MRD).

3 See International Labour Conference, Provisional Record 4c, 97th session, Second Report of the Credentials Committee, 2008, para. 36.

4 Idem.

5 See the Compilation of cases in the CD-ROM attached to this report.

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