Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Chad
In 2007, owing to the extension of the conflict in Darfur, to the east of the country, there were about 235,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad, and about 170,000 Chadians forcibly displaced. The "Janjawid" militia committed serious crimes against the populations on both sides of the frontier: summary executions, acts of torture, sexual violence, looting, etc. And whilst the violence between communities was increasing, echoing the exactions in Darfur, the confrontation between various Chadian rebel groups based in Darfur and the army intensified. In addition, the Syrte Peace Agreement, signed on October 25, 2007 between the Government and the rebels – the United Front for Democratic Change (Front uni pour le changement – FUC), the Alliance of Resistant Democrats (Alliance des démocrates résistants – ADR), the Chadian Democratic Rally (Rassemblement démocratique tchadien – RDT) and the Union of the Chadian People for National Reconstruction (Union du peuple tchadien pour la reconstruction nationale – UPTRN) – did not last, and by November fighting had broken out again near the Sudanese refugee camps.
In an attempt to pacify the region, on September 25, 2007, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1778 authorising the constitution of a "multidimensional" force in eastern Chad and in the northeast of the Central African Republic (CAR). The United Nations Mission in CAR and in Chad (MINURCAT) will be responsible for the protection of the refugees, the internally displaced persons and the endangered civilian populations, and also for creating a favourable environment for human rights and the rule of law, while a European Union military operation, the European Force (EUFOR), will be responsible for the protection of the endangered civilian populations, for facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid and for protecting United Nations and international NGOs personnel, such as Doctors Without Borders Spain (Médecins sans frontières Espagne – MSF), whose personnel was attacked in N'Djamena in December 2007.1
Stigmatisation of defenders and impossibility of denouncing human rights violations, in particular those committed in eastern Chad
It is extremely difficult to denounce human rights violations in such conditions, especially as the Government rejects any criticism liable to question its authority. Defenders are systematically stigmatised and exposed to physical attacks, in particular when they denounce human rights violations, especially in eastern Chad, on the Sudanese border. At a press conference held in the middle of December 2007, for instance, the Minister for the Interior threatened to put an end to the activities of NGOs and independent journalists if they continued to criticise Government policies and action in the east of the country. Such remarks confirm the policy of harassment and intimidation of journalists who publish articles on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the area. Thus, Mr. Bénoudjita Nadjikimo, publisher of the Notre Temps newspaper, was arrested on December 14, 2007 without a warrant and charged with "incitement to tribal hatred", on the grounds that he had published an article denouncing human rights violations in eastern Chad.
Furthermore, as in previous years, human rights defenders continued to be stigmatised and assimilated to political opponents or criminals. An example of this is provided by remarks made by the Minister for Culture and Artistic Development in his native village, Moundou, early January 2008, against defenders who had come to intervene in an inter-community conflict: "There is no territory for human rights organisations. Chad belongs to the Chadian authorities. I shall never tolerate human rights associations defying the State in western Logone". Such declarations can only encourage acts of intimidation and attacks against defenders, which are committed with total impunity.
Trade union leaders are also subjected to repression. In June 2007, repression against trade unions intensified following a public sector strike organised by the Interunion association (Intersyndicale) calling for a revaluation of the civil service index, a rise in the minimum wage, a very substantial increase in retirement pensions, and family allowances adapted to the cost of living. From the start, the workers involved in the strike were subjected to pressure, and on June 5, 2007, the headquarters of the Chadian Teachers' Union (Syndicat des enseignants du Tchad), a member of the Interunion association, were occupied by the police and the gendarmerie. In addition, on May 27, 2007, the passport of Mr. Djibrine Assali, Secretary General of the Chad Trade Union Federation (Union des syndicats du Tchad – UST), was confiscated as he was about to take a flight to Geneva (Switzerland), where he was to attend the International Labour Conference.2
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 See United Nations Press Release, "Attacks against aid workers impeding humanitarian relief in eastern Chad", December 27, 2007.
2 See Press Release by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), June 5, 2007.