(This report covers the period January-December 1997) Fourteen government opponents forcibly returned from Ethiopia were detained on charges of armed conspiracy. Several other government opponents were harassed; some faced apparently politically motivated criminal charges and an opposition leader was detained for two weeks. Five prisoners of conscience imprisoned in 1996 were released. Several suspected rebel supporters were briefly detained; some were reportedly tortured or ill-treated. Following the parliamentary elections in December, the ruling Rassemblement populaire pour le progrès, People's Assembly for Progress, headed by President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, returned to power. In a new alliance with the former Afar opposition Front pour la restauration de l'unité et de la démocratie (frud), Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy, it won all 65 seats, defeating the two other permitted opposition parties. The 1994 peace agreement between the government and frud remained largely in force despite some fighting between government troops and a frud armed faction in the second half of the year. Five government opponents deported from Ethiopia (see Ethiopia entry) in September were immediately arrested on their return to Djibouti and later charged with armed conspiracy, attempted assassination and criminal association. They included Mohamed Kadamy Youssouf, a frud representative, his wife Aicha Dabale Ahmed, a relief agency employee and possible prisoner of conscience, and Ali Mohamed Maki, a frud military commander. Aicha Dabale Ahmed, who was pregnant, was at first refused medical treatment but was later transferred to hospital and, in December, to house arrest. Nine other frud exiles in Ethiopia were deported later in the year and detained and charged in Djibouti with similar offences. All were still held under judicial investigation at the end of the year. Ahmed Daher Farah, a leader of the opposition Parti du Renouveau Démocratique, Party for Democratic Revival, was detained for two weeks in October and charged with political offences. Other government critics were charged with criminal offences, including Aref Mohamed Aref, a human rights lawyer. None had been tried by the end of the year. The charges appeared to have been politically motivated Five prisoners of conscience imprisoned in August 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997) were released in January after serving six-month sentences for defaming the Head of State. The five – who included Moumin Bahdon Farah, a former Foreign Minister, and Ismail Guedi Hared, former director of the President's cabinet – remained barred from political office for five years. Three were members of parliament; their imprisonment and subsequent exclusion from the elections were strongly criticized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union's Human Rights Committee Several suspected rebel supporters were detained for some days after a frud rebel attack in Obok district in early September. Some were reportedly tortured or ill-treated in military custody. Amnesty International criticized the ban from political office of the five released prisoners of conscience. It appealed for humane treatment and fair trial for the exiles forcibly returned from Ethiopia, and in particular for Aicha Dabale Ahmed to receive all necessary medical treatment. In October Amnesty International wrote to the Minister of Justice questioning the charges brought against Aref Mohamed Aref and Ahmed Daher Farah, but received no reply.

This 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.