U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Chad

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.


Chad continued its transition from an authoritarian system to a constitutional democracy. Effective power is held by President Idriss Deby and his party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS). President Deby took power in a December 1990 coup and was confirmed as Chief of State by the Sovereign National Conference (CNS) of 1993. He was elected President in mid-1996 under a Constitution adopted in a referendum earlier that year. Elections for a National Legislative Assembly were held in early 1997 and resulted in the replacement of the provisional parliament known as the Higher Transitional Council (CST). General Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue, the runner-up to Idriss Deby in the 1996 presidential elections, was elected President of the new Assembly. The Government is headed by a Prime Minister nominated by the President and confirmed by the National Assembly. Prime Minister Nassour Guelengdouksia Ouaidou has held office since May. Insurgent groups opposed to the Government did not mount any serious campaigns, and a number of rebels changed their support to the Government. An important peace accord was signed in Moundou on April 18 between the Government and the rebel group known as the Armed Forces for the Federal Republic (FARF), led by Laokein Barde Frisson. However, fighting broke out between the Government and FARF in Moundou in October, resulting in the breakdown of the accord and arresting the downward trend of Government-rebel confrontation. The judicial system continued to be ineffective, overburdened and subject to outside, including official, interference, notably in the handling by the Court of Appeals of the results of the legislative elections. The army, gendarmerie, police, National and Nomadic Guard (GNNT), and intelligence services are responsible for internal security. Officers from the ethnic group of President Deby dominate the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR), and the National Security Agency (ANS), a counterintelligence organization that has acted as an internal political police force. The security forces continued to commit serious human rights abuses, with the army remaining an essentially undisciplined force. The economy is mainly based on subsistence agriculture, herding, and fishing. Per capita income is estimated at $190 per year. The country has little industry; its chief export is cotton. The Government relies heavily on external financial and technical assistance, but has substantial undeveloped oil reserves. The human rights situation improved in several respects; however, serious problems remain. According to local human rights groups, the security forces committed scores of extrajudicial killings. There were reports of disappearances. Members of the security forces also beat and reportedly raped citizens. Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. Security forces continued to use arbitrary arrest, detention illegal searches and wiretaps. The Government did not prosecute security personnel accused in previous years of killings, rape, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention. The judiciary remained subject to government interference. It was unable to provide citizens with prompt trials, and lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Citizens' right to change their government remained in doubt. The second round of the legislative elections was marred by widespread reports of fraud, vote-rigging, and irregularities committed by local officials, although no major incidents of violence were reported. The Court of Appeals succumbed to government pressure to ensure that a majority of parliamentary seats was held by the ruling party. There was infringement on worker rights, including reported instances of forced labor in agricultural communities and the military forces. Discrimination against women is common; violence against women is also believed to be common. Female genital mutilation is widespread. FARF rebels reportedly committed serious abuses, including killings of civilians in the area of Moundou in November and December.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The security forces committed scores of extrajudicial killings, according to local human rights groups. Reports of officially sanctioned extrajudicial killings of accused criminals by police and gendarmes began to appear in November 1996, in the aftermath of a severe crime wave. The press provided further evidence by publishing an official telegram signed by the commander of a special unit of the Gendarmerie Nationale. This telegram contained an order that instructed security forces to kill any person caught in the act of theft, under penalty of severe sanction if they did not comply. The implementation of the so-called "New Law" enjoyed a large measure of popular support. The authorities cited public support and the breakdown of the judicial and prison systems as justification for the use of lethal force until the policy was finally disavowed by the Government largely due to international pressure on March 14. A Cabinet minister in January indicated in a newspaper interview that the policy of lethal force has worked but that there were no statistics. However, the minister did not directly dispute local human rights groups' charges that scores of citizens were killed or that security forces killed nine persons in a public square in Fianga on Christmas Eve 1996. In February the independent newspaper N'Djamena Hebdo reported the experiences of Adoum Godi, who said that he and two companions had been arrested in late January on charges of stealing a carpet. Godi said that after a few days in detention the three were taken out by gendarmes at night, bound, and thrown into the Chari river. Godi said that he was able to escape, while the others drowned. Security forces maintained that the story was a fabrication and that Godi was "a thief who was let go." However, independent eyewitnesses reported seeing Godi being pulled out of the river by fishermen. Other instances of extrajudicial killings by security forces reportedly occurred even after the issuance of the March 14 order. On June 1 and June 12, Gendarme Commander Ouardougou reportedly killed five persons in the town of Dourbali who were accused of theft. The victims were: Hissein Fadil Hamid; Omar Ahmat; Yaya Moursal; Cheick Abakar Ahmat; and Mahamat Abakar. Persistent reports from Koumra, Bongor, and N'Djamena indicated that extrajudicial killings continued to occur until August, although it is unclear whether the killings were ordered by the Government or whether local authorities acted independently. Many of the killings apparently were clandestine, at night, or in remote locations. Police, gendarmes, and soldiers used excessive force in attempting to quell a protest in Gounou-Gaya in January. After knife wounds inflicted by a retired gendarme caused the death of a village chief, peasants from the hamlet demonstrated noisily outside the hospital where he had been taken. Police used tear gas and warning shots to disperse the protesters. However, a crowd of about 500 villagers later carried the chief's corpse to the office of the provincial administrator. Security forces then fired a rocket-propelled grenade toward the crowd. The grenade exploded, killing one person and wounding eight others. The authorities took no action to punish those responsible. In October in Moundou government forces committed extrajudicial killings that included summary executions in their confrontations with FARF elements. An estimated 100 persons were killed, including those killed by rebels; a large number of those killed were noncombatants. Fighting broke out between government and FARF troops during a period of considerable tension over accusations of noncompliance by both sides with the April peace accords intended to end the FARF insurgency in the south of the country. Most observers believe that government troops sought the confrontation. Although open fighting between the two forces ceased within hours, government troops conducted brutal house-to-house searches for FARF personnel, in the process committing executions and torture of civilians. Following a lengthy questioning of the Government by Members of Parliament during an extraordinary session of Parliament on live television on November 4, a joint Parliamentary-Government team traveled to the region to restore calm and gather information on the incident. The Government also announced several initiatives to renew reconciliation with the FARF, including integrating FARF forces into the army without retribution. The joint team produced a report that acknowledged a much higher death toll than the Government had originally announced, blamed the FARF for the tensions leading to the incident, and assigned no blame for the civilian deaths. Local human rights groups also sent a team to the area, and published a report detailing numerous serious human rights violations by government troops. The human rights groups reported a lack of cooperation by authorities during their investigation. In December human rights organizations reported that the military forces continued to commit human rights abuses, including the killing of villagers in the prefectures of Eastern and Western Logone during November and December. Some of these killings appearred to have been executions of targeted persons, while other deaths and woundings appeared to be random. The Chadian contingent of the Inter-African Peacekeeping force (MISAB) in the Central African Republic reportedly committed serious rights abuses during its operations, including the killing of many civilians and looting of residences. The Government did not punish the Chadian contingent of MISAB for its abuses and undisciplined behavior. In response to the October incident in Moundou, FARF rebels reportedly retaliated against the army in November, and followed this action with a number of alleged attacks on civilian targets in the region around Moundou in November and December, reportedly killing and abusing civilians.

b. Disappearance

There were credible reports of disappearances. Although it was difficult to establish the facts and to assign responsibility, there were reports of security force involvement. For example, Djimadoumgue Guemingar, allegedly a former agent and an informant for the ANS, was arrested on May 22 by a "Brigade Mixte" (a unit composed of elements from different branches of the armed services) on a charge of possessing a stolen motorbike. Since Guemingar's arrest, his location remains unknown; however, the motorbike is reportedly being used at the Chadian National Nomadic Guard (GNNT) base at Ngueli, near N'Djamena. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have made inquiries to the Government concerning persons missing prior to 1997, often to no avail. For example, Valentin Nedoumdingam was reportedly arrested in 1995 in the south, then transferred to the prison in Faya Largeau, but he has since disappeared.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment, or Punishment

The Constitution specifically prohibits torture and degrading or humiliating treatment. However, members of the security forces beat and raped citizens. No one was prosecuted for these abuses. The April 22 edition of the independent newspaper Contact reported a series of abusive incidents, including beatings and rapes, perpetrated against the citizens of Koundoul by soldiers from the nearby army camp. The soldiers reportedly behaved violently because they often were not paid. Since then the Government has restricted soldiers to their bases, and the incidents ceased. After a clash with FARF forces in Moundou on October 30, soldiers and gendarmes reportedly tortured dozens of civilians (see Section 1.a.). The GNNT, which by presidential decree is responsible for combating smuggling, frequently used excessive force in its operations. The July 3 issue of N'Djamena Hebdo reported in detail the action of GNNT forces in killing Ali Farris Abdallah for smuggling a small quantity of gasoline. Additional credible sources reported brutal beatings of citizens by this unit. The GNNT supplemented the duties of the Customs Brigade early in the year, in part because of the Brigade's reputation for reckless driving. In one egregious instance, World Bank resident Representative David Jones was struck and killed on Easter Sunday while customs officials chased an alleged smuggler. FARF rebels reportedly abused civilians after the Moundou incident (see Section 1.a.). Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. Prisons are characterized by serious overcrowding; poor sanitation; inadequate food, shelter and medical facilities; and mixing of adult male, female, and minor prisoners. The Government took no effective action to improve these conditions, and some inmates may have died due to the poor conditions. Prisoners are almost totally dependent on their families for food and clothing. All prisons are in need of major repairs, and escapes are frequent. The Government permits some prison visits by human rights groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC reported that it planned to reduce its monitoring visits, citing improvements in the areas of abuse and mistreatment of prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution and the Penal Code prohibit arbitrary arrest. Arrest warrants must usually be signed by a judicial official. However, the Government often does not respect these requirements. After a clash with FARF forces on October 30, army units arrested dozens of civilians. None were brought to trial; their status is unknown. The Government did not use exile as a political weapon.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution mandates an independent judiciary. However, the judiciary did not operate effectively, being underfunded, overburdened, and subject to official interference. In practice, officials and influential individuals often enjoy immunity from judicial sanction. The national judicial system operates with courts located in provincial capitals. The N'Djamena Court of Appeals, the country's highest court, is supposed to conduct regular sessions in the provinces, but rarely does so. Applicable law can be confusing, as courts often tend to blend the formal French-derived legal code with traditional practices. Official inaction and interference continue to plague the judiciary. Persons accused of crimes may endure up to several years of incarceration before being charged or tried, especially those arrested for felonies in the provinces who must await remand to the overcrowded and dangerous house of detention in N'Djamena. Salaries for justice officials are often low and in arrears. Although the Government has stated that the strengthening and reform of the judiciary are top priorities, progress has been slow. The Military Code of Justice has not been enforced since the 1979-1980 Civil War, and courts-martial instituted early in the Deby Regime to try security personnel for crimes against civilians no longer operate. People in rural areas usually do not have access to formal judicial institutions. In most civil cases, they rely on traditional courts presided over by village chiefs, chefs de canton, or sultans. Decisions may be appealed to a formal court. There are no reliable figures concerning the number of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy of home, correspondence, and other communications, as well as freedom from arbitrary search. The Penal Code requires that authorities conduct searches of homes only during daylight hours and with a legal warrant. In practice, security forces ignored these provisions and conducted extrajudicial searches at any time. The Government engages in wiretapping without judicial authority.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press. The Government generally respected these rights. The official media, consisting of a national radio network, a press agency, and an N'Djamena television station, are subject to both official and informal censorship. At times they are critical of the Government. The official media also give priority to government officials and events while providing lesser attention to the opposition. The Higher Council on Communications (HCC), an independent institution, acts as an arbiter whose main function is to promote free access to the media. It has no power of enforcement, but successfully promulgated rules for equal access for official political statements broadcast during the constitutional referendum and the presidential and legislative elections, resulting in greater access for opposition parties. There are a number of limited-circulation, independent newspapers published in the capital, some of which are vociferously critical of government policies and leaders. The Government did not censor these newspapers, but issued warnings to the independent press on occasion. On August 15, President Deby said that he "will no longer tolerate personal attacks and unfounded accusations," a reference to an article critical of his own clan in the independent weekly Le Temps. The Government did not interfere with the distribution of opposition tracts and press releases, but state radio officials sometimes refused to broadcast opposition statements, even when radio broadcast rights had been purchased in advance. On November 13, police arrested Balla Bombebe, the editor of the independent weekly Contact for allegedly attempting to publish false information. He was not formally charged and was released the following day. Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice. Authorities routinely granted permits for political and nongovernmental organization (NGO) meetings, and did not interfere with meetings or press conferences. However, in at least one instance in the town of Abeche in July, the authorities denied permission to the Chadian League of Human Rights (LTDH) to hold conferences or debates, citing the "discretionary power of the Administration." The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. There are more than 60 registered political parties and several hundred NGO's.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution states that the State is secular. It also provides for freedom of religion. All faiths worship without government constraint.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for these rights. The Government does not require special permission for travel in most areas. However, armed bandits operate on many roads, exposing travelers to assault, robbery, and murder; many bandits have been identified as active duty soldiers and deserters. Despite Government efforts to clear the country's main routes of illegal roadblocks, elements of the security forces, guerrillas, and bandits continue to maintain them, extorting money from travelers. The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations assisting refugees. There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim to refugee status. The country provides first asylum for refugees and has done so in past years. The Government has informally granted refugee and asylee status to persons and has allowed them to remain for resettlement. The Government adheres to the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to their status. Although these accords were never ratified by the Government and therefore do not carry force in local law, the Government nevertheless adheres to the principles and purposes of these instruments. An official national structure, the National Committee for Welcoming and Reintegration, has been created to deal with refugee affairs. Since August 1993, however, the Government has registered refugees in N'Djamena and sent their applications for refugee status to the UNHCR Central African Headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. If the application is accepted, then in principle the refugee will be enrolled in a 6-month care maintenance program that includes a monthly subsistence allowance, medical care, and assistance in finding work. This program is funded by a local NGO. Chadian refugees are free to repatriate, although several thousand remain in the Central African Republic, Niger, Libya, Sudan, Nigeria and Cameroon. A group of foreign individuals, mostly Sudanese claiming to be refugees, have charged Government complicity with the government in Sudan. They assert that the UNHCR branch office in N'Djamena is unable to protect them from deportation.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The right of citizens to change their government peacefully is in doubt, given the apparent unwillingness of the Government to accept minority status in Parliament, as evidenced in the 1997 legislative elections, and the Court of Appeals' inability to resist Government pressure in reviewing election results. The elections were the first national vote for a parliament in many years and the first under President Deby. The vote was orderly and took place without major incident. However, the process was compromised by persistent reports of fraud, including vote-rigging and other irregularities committed by election officers, government officials, members of the ruling party, and other parties, particularly in the second round. In the final results as announced by the Court of Appeals, the ruling MPS party won 65 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly. The Constitution accords immunity to both the President and members of the National Assembly, and includes no provision for recall. The national government appoints local officials and is expected to continue to do so until local elections, scheduled for 1998. Few women hold senior leadership positions. There is one woman of cabinet rank and three female deputies in the National Assembly.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Human rights organizations operate with few overt restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are often accessible but generally unresponsive or hostile to their findings. The human rights NGO Tchad Non-Violence has been the target of a formal complaint resulting in a court action for slander by the ANS, arising from an incident in which the NGO alleged that one of its members had been assaulted in May by an ANS agent. The charge is still pending. NGO's have gained recognition under the Deby regime and participate in key governmental institutions. Human rights groups have assisted the Government in mediating longstanding conflicts between herders and farmers over land and water rights. Human rights groups also acted as interlocutors in the April Peace Accords between the Government and FARF. They are courageous, if often partisan, in publicizing abuses through reports and press releases, but only occasionally are able to intervene successfully with authorities. All are dominated by opponents of the Government, impairing their credibility. The Government's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which published a report in March, reported an improvement in conditions over the predecessor regime of Hissein Habre. Local human rights groups investigating the Moundou clash between government and FARF troops reported a lack of cooperation by authorities (see Section 1.a.). The Government did not prohibit investigations by international human rights organizations. Over the past 6 years the United Nations Human Rights Commission has considered a case against Chad under the confidential 1503 Procedure. The Commission voted in 1996 to consider moving the case to the public procedures process during the following year if there was no response from the Government. However, the case remained confidential and had not moved to the public process by year's end.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens, regardless of origin, race, religion, political opinion, or social status. In practice, cultural traditions maintain women in a subordinate status, and the Government favors its ethnic supporters and allies.


While no statistics are available, domestic violence against women is believed to be common. By tradition, wives are subject to the authority of their husbands, and have only limited legal recourse against abuse. Family or traditional authorities may act in such cases, but police rarely intervene. Neither government nor advocacy groups have been able to redress discrimination against women. However, a number of women's advocacy groups are working to this end. In practice, women do not have equal opportunities for education and training, making it difficult for them to compete for the few formal sector jobs. Property and inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, but traditional practice favors men. Exploitation of women is especially pervasive in rural areas, where women do most of the agricultural labor and are discouraged from formal schooling.


The Government has demonstrated little commitment to children's rights and welfare. It has not committed adequate funding to public education and medical care. Educational opportunities for girls are limited, mainly because of tradition. There are no provisions for compulsory education. About as many girls as boys are enrolled in primary school, but the percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school is extremely low, primarily because of early marriage. Although the law prohibits sexual relations with a girl under the age of 14, even if married, this law is rarely enforced, and families arrange marriages for girls as young as age 11 or 12, sometimes forcibly, for the financial gain of a dowry. Many wives are then obligated to work long hours of physical labor for their husbands in fields or homes. Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, is widespread, estimated at about 60 percent of all females, and deeply rooted in tradition. Advocated by women as well as by men, the practice is strongest among ethnic groups in the east and south. It is usually performed prior to puberty as a rite of passage, an occasion many families use to profit from gifts from their communities. Opposition to its elimination is strong. Both the Government and the NGO community have in recent years initiated a process intended to eliminate this practice. They have been markedly more active, especially in conducting public awareness campaigns and seminars, and believe that their efforts are effective. FGM is theoretically prosecutable as a form of assault. A new family code, not yet ratified, contains language that specifically addresses FGM and condemns its practice.

People With Disabilities

There is no official discrimination against disabled persons. However, the Government operates few therapy, education, or employment programs for people with disabilities, and no laws mandate access to buildings for them. One association for the disabled was given 15 minutes of free broadcast time to devote to its problems. Several local NGO's provide skills training to the deaf and blind.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnicity continues to influence government appointments and political alliances. There are approximately 200 ethnic groups from two general traditions: Arab and Saharan/Sahelian zone Muslims in the north, center, and east, and Sudanian zone Christian or animist peoples in the south. Rivalries among these many groups have caused civil tensions and conflicts for decades.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution recognizes freedom of association and union membership as well as the right to strike. All employees, except members of the military forces, are free to join or form unions. Unions must receive authorization from the Government in order to operate legally. However, few workers belong to unions: Most workers are unpaid subsistence cultivators or herders. The main labor organization is the Federation of Chadian Unions (UST). Its former major constituent union, the Teachers' Union of Chad (SET), became independent of it during the year. Neither has ties to the Government. A number of minor federations and unions, including the Free Confederation of Chadian Workers (CLTT), also operate, some with ties to government officials. The Government generally respected the right to organize and strike. However, the UST has filed legal actions against the Government in the courts for attempts in 1993, 1995, and 1996 to suspend it and occupy its headquarters. Isolated strikes over unpaid salaries by teachers and health workers occurred in several areas of the country, and there was a short lived strike at CotonTchad.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution and the Labor Code contain only general provisions on the rights of labor and do not specifically protect collective bargaining. The Labor Code requires the Government to set minimum wage standards and permits unions to bargain collectively, but empowers the Government to intervene in the bargaining process under certain circumstances. Of the three top union officials expelled from Biltine Prefecture and suspended from their jobs at the Government's behest in 1995, two have been reinstated; one remains suspended. There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits slavery and forced or compulsory labor, including such labor by children. However, the International Labour Organization (ILO) maintains that several provisions of both pre- and post-independence legislation may permit forced labor under certain circumstances, and has urged the Government to take action to repeal them. There is no evidence of the practice in the formal economy. There have been reports of isolated instances of forced labor among rural farming or herding communities, and in military installations in the north. Human rights associations also indicate that the military forces routinely compel soldiers to perform forced labor at isolated outposts as punishment.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, but does not enforce this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.c.). The Labor Code stipulates that the minimum age for employment in the formal sector is 14 years. The Government does not enforce the law, but in practice children are rarely employed except in agriculture and herding. Most of the 600 minors in the armed forces at the beginning of the year are believed to have been mustered out in a demobilization program.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code requires the Government to set minimum wages. The minimum wage is $50 (25,480 cfa) per month. Most wages are insufficient to provide a worker and family a decent standard of living. Nearly all private sector and state-owned firms had applied the new standards by the end of 1995, but public sector wages remain below standard since the Government failed to submit legislation to implement them for its employees. The Government's record on salary payments improved. Structural adjustment assistance from international institutions enabled it to pay most of its employees regularly and usually on time. Salary arrears to civil servants and teachers outside the capital, a problem in a country with few financial institutions, remains at approximately 3 months. However, arrears to government employees from previous years remain unpaid. Moreover, some members of the military forces received only subsistence payments for most of the year. Many state employees must work second jobs, raise their own food crops, or rely on family for support. The law limits most nonagricultural work to 48 hours per week, with overtime paid for supplementary hours, and agricultural work limited to 2,400 hours per year. All workers are entitled to 24 consecutive hours of rest per week, although in practice these rights are rarely enforced. The Labor Code mandates occupational health and safety standards and provides inspectors with the authority to enforce them. These standards are rarely respected in practice, and the UST has alleged before the ILO that the labor inspection services are not allocated the resources necessary to perform their duties. In principle, workers can remove themselves from dangerous working conditions, but in practice they cannot without jeopardizing their employment.

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