Scores of critics of the government were arrested. Eighteen political prisoners received unfair trials. There were reports of torture.

During 1998 there was fighting between government forces and an armed faction of the Front pour la restauration de l'unité et de la démocratie (FRUD), Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy. Government soldiers reportedly mistreated Afar civilians suspected of supporting the rebels.

In December Djibouti acceded to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Government critics, including trade unionists and members of opposition parties, were detained or harassed by the police and security services. Aref Mohamed Aref, a human rights lawyer, had his passport confiscated to prevent him attending the Paris Human Rights Defenders' Summit organized by Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations in December. In March scores of striking health workers were detained for a few days; they were released without charge. In May Ahmed Omar and Abubaker Ahmed Awled, journalists on the newspaper of the opposition Parti de renouveau démocratique, Party of Democratic Revival, were arrested. They were subsequently sentenced to three months' imprisonment and a fine, and their newspaper was banned.

In September, 18 people charged with political offences received unfair trials; several said that they had been tortured to extract false confessions which were accepted as evidence in court. They included 16 soldiers arrested in August and charged with plotting a coup, and two leaders of the Groupement pour la démocratie et de la République (GDR), Group for Democracy and the Republic – Ahmed Boulaleh Barreh and Moumin Bahdon Farah, both former prisoners of conscience (see Amnesty International Report 1998). All were convicted of inciting civil disobedience and sentenced to suspended prison terms ranging from six to 12 months.

Ten relatives and associates of former prisoner of conscience Ismail Guedi Hared, former Director of the President's cabinet, were arrested in November and charged with armed conspiracy. Some were allegedly tortured. Their trial had not started by the end of the year.

Two FRUD members deported from Ethiopia in May were detained and charged with armed conspiracy. Over 30 other FRUD members, including 14 deported from Ethiopia in 1997, remained held awaiting trial on charges of armed conspiracy. One of those deported in 1997, Aicha Dabale Ahmed, was released in March after giving birth and allowed to go abroad for medical treatment (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

Six Ethiopian Oromos, including Ali Omar, a community leader and a recognized refugee, were handed over to the Ethiopian authorities in January and reportedly detained.

Prison conditions were harsh. In June political prisoners in Gabode prison went on hunger strike for several days in protest against the denial of adequate medical treatment. Ethiopian refugee women were reportedly raped in police stations during round-ups of suspected illegal immigrants.

Amnesty International called on the government of President Hassan Gouled Aptidon to release prisoners of conscience and ensure fair trials for political detainees. It also called for detainees to be treated humanely.

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