Chad: Repression of demonstrations must stop immediately
Reacting to the crackdown against today’s protests and the deaths of demonstrators, Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa said:“Violent clashes occurred this morning between security forces and demonstrators in N’Djamena and elsewhere in the country. According to initial testimonies collected by Amnesty International, the security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators, just like in April 2021 and in Abeche in January 2022, killing several dozen people including a child. We call on the Chadian authorities to immediately halt the excessive use of force against demonstrators.
The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is enshrined in national and international texts, including the guidelines of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. These provisions must be respected to allow each person to express themselves freely and without fear for their life.
The authorities must take immediate action to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for unlawful killings.”
On 20 October 2022, demonstrations were held in N’Djamena and elsewhere in the country to denounce the extension of the transition period for a further two years and to demand the transfer of power to civilians. Hundreds of people answered the call of several opposition parties and civil society associations.
The Prime Minister announced a provisional toll of 50 dead and 300 injured. He announced that a Judicial Commission would be set up to determine responsibility.
Chad: Repression of protests continues as authorities fail to protect right to freedom of expression
October 11, 2021Following the repression of a protest planned on 9 October 2021 by opposition and pro-democracy activists in Chad, Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher said:“The crackdown on this weekend’s protest is the latest in a series of blatant restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful association we have documented for years in Chad.
When authorities’ attempts to ban the protest did not deter demonstrators, security forces took over the main streets in the capital N’Djamena and fired tear gas, injuring several people, and arresting dozens of demonstrators who have been released on the same day.
Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher
“On the morning of the protest, text messages and Internet networks were reportedly slowed down for hours in some areas of N’Djamena, confirming the link between disruptions in Internet access and moments of political contestation we have been observing over the past five years in the country.
“Since the beginning of the political transition, several demonstrations were banned and suppressed by the authorities. Between 27 April and 19 May 2021, at least 16 people were killed during protests in N’Djamena and the southern town of Moundou. The investigations’ outcomes are still awaited.
“Authorities in Chad must end this campaign of intimidation against critical voices, respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The apparent restrictions on Internet connectivity which took place around the protest must be investigated, and people in Chad must be allowed to freely access and exchange information online.”
Since the death of former President Idriss Deby Itno in April 2021, Chad has been ruled by the Transitional Military Council (Conseil militaire de transition in French) led by his son, Mahamat Idriss Deby.
On Saturday 9 October 2021, ‘Wakit Tama’, a coalition of civil society organizations and opposition parties in Chad, called for a protest to denounce the transitional authorities’ governance.
The authorities, evoking “risks of disturbing public order”, banned the protest, but people gathered in the capital N’Djamena. According to ‘Wakit Tama’s’ spokespersons, at least 10 people were injured by tear gas and 45 others were arrested during the protest repression.
On 2 October, police fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators starting to gather around the headquarters of the opposition political party ‘Les Transformateurs’ . The police also dispersed demonstrators in other areas of Ndjamena. According to the authorities, the agreed itinerary for the protest has not been respected. .
On 10 October, Wakit Tama said in a statement that five of its main leaders were to be heard by the judicial police today, after police reportedly raided the headquarters of ‘Les Transformateurs’.
Chad: Announcement of investigation following death of protesters must lead to prosecutions
1 June 2021, 09:09 UTC
The announcement of an investigation into the use of firearms by security forces during the last two months of protests in Chad must lead to prosecutions through fair trials of those suspected of unlawful killings, Amnesty International said today.
Based on testimonies from victims, their close relatives, and human rights associations, Amnesty International can confirm that at least 16 people were killed in the capital N’Djamena and the southern town of Moundou during protests which took place between 27 April and 19 May. Dozens of others were injured and at least 700 were arrested, some of whom were released shortly after the protests which were organized by the Wakit Tama coalition.
While freedom of peaceful assembly may be subject to limitations under specific conditions, Amnesty International considers the authorities’ reasons for banning these demonstrations, namely the possible disturbance of public order, disproportionate.
We spoke to protestors, some of whom had been surrounded by three groups of defense and security forces constituted of gendarmes and police officers. One of them said it was a police officer who shot at him, causing injuries to his left knee.
“We spoke to protestors, some of whom had been surrounded by three groups of defense and security forces constituted of gendarmes and police officers. One of them said it was a police officer who shot at him, causing injuries to his left knee,” said Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher.
‘’Firearms, which are not a law enforcement tool, should only be used as a last resort, in the face of imminent risk of death or serious injury. Chadian authorities must fully respect the guidelines of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the maintenance of order by law enforcement officials.’’
‘’Their announcement of an investigation into the killings and injuries must be independent and impartial and lead to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.”
Amnesty International spoke to victims and witnesses who described the use of lethal force by the defense and security forces. For example, during the 8 May protest in N’Djamena, a police officer shot at protesters and killed one of them, according to an eyewitness.
“There was a group of protesters who agreed to gather at the 6th Arrondissement District in N’Djamena. The place was already occupied by the security forces who started firing tear gas at protesters, a scene which lasted several minutes. That was when a young man on his motorbike was hit by a bullet,” the eyewitness told Amnesty International.
On 19 May, transition authorities announced that the police officer who killed the young protester on his motorbike had been sacked but they did not confirm whether he was subject to legal proceedings.
The 27 April protest in N’Djamena was also the scene of armed police intervention on board pick-up vehicles patrolling the streets. Amnesty International has collected several testimonies from relatives of victims killed during that day’s protest.
The victims were shot and later died in various health facilities. One of the victims was shot three times, twice to the chest. According to witnesses, security forces and plainclothes officers were shooting from an unregistered car with tinted windows.
In the N’Djamena 9th District, other witnesses told Amnesty International they have seen on 27 April armed men in vehicles with tinted windows shooting at the crowd without any reaction from soldiers and police officers who were present at the scene. Three people were injured on 27 April and one of them, a young man of 19, died from his injuries after he was brought to the Walia University Hospital Center (UHC).
“He was 19-years-old. He was shot three times, twice in the left side and once to the thigh. He was evacuated with others injured to the UHC where he died just as we were entering the operating room,” a witness said.
While protests organized by either civil society organizations or opposition parties in Chad have systematically been banned since April, those supporting the Transitional Military Committee (CMT) can freely protest.
A civil society member has confirmed it to Amnesty International:
“Protests organized since April were banned and repressed by the security forces while the one organized in support to the CMT was authorized on 12 May.”
This approach proves that the bans on demonstrations during the same period were disproportionate and in violation of international law.
In a statement released on 7 May, the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration said peaceful protests were only allowed if they met criteria set out by the law.
The Minister of Communication justified the ban on the 8 May protest in N’Djamena by its organizers’ refusal to indicate their itinerary and to set up internal security.
“There have been regular violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Chad for several months. Everyone must be able to safely exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Chadian and international laws,” said Abdoulaye Diarra.
Chad: Deaths following violent crackdown on protests must be investigated
28 April 2021, 12:39 UTC
Following the deaths yesterday of at least five protesters and the announcement by Chad’s opposition and civil society organizations of new protests today, Marceau Sivieude, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Deputy Director, said:
“Yesterday’s protests in Chad have led to the death of at least five people, according to the authorities. Many more people were also injured and arrested.
We urge authorities to launch impartial and independent investigations into the circumstances of these deaths and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible of unlawful killing.
“We urge authorities to launch impartial and independent investigations into the circumstances of these deaths and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible of unlawful killing.
“These protests are happening in response to the seizure of power by a Transitional Military Council (CMT in French), two weeks ago, after Chad’s President Idriss Déby died.
“As opposition and civil society organizations have renewed their call for new protests today, authorities must ensure people can safely exercise their right to peaceful assembly. No one should face arrest for simply exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and all those detained for that reason should be immediately and unconditionally released.”
A coalition of civil society organizations and opposition parties also known as ‘Wakit Tama’- meaning the time has come in local Arabic language- called yesterday for protests denouncing what they consider an “institutional coup” and “dynastic succession” following the seizure of power by the CMT headed by Mahamat Idriss Déby the son of President Idriss Déby.
The CMT has banned the protests and security forces cracked down on protesters leading to four deaths in the capital N’Djamena and one in the southern town of Moundou, according to prosecutors. However, the Convention of Human Rights in Chad – a group member of ‘Waakit Tama’ – said nine people died.
Chad: Internet shutdowns impeding freedom of expression
9 April 2021, 08:54 UTC
Nearly 2.5 years in total of internet cuts or disruptions since 2016
WhatsApp and Facebook most targeted social networks
Activists and human rights defenders impacted by cuts and disruptions
Chadian authorities have stepped up restrictions on civic space in recent months with long internet shutdowns, arbitrary arrests, and violations of freedoms of protest and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said ahead of the 11 April presidential election.
Over the past five years, authorities have deliberately restricted the internet during mobilisations organized by dissenting voices. This has accumulated to almost two and half years of internet cuts or disruptions since 2016, according to several organisations.
We have seen in the last five years, a close link between internet cuts and Chad’s important moments of political dispute. These disruptions impacting all internet users undermine freedom of expression.
« We have seen in the last five years, a close link between internet cuts and Chad’s important moments of political dispute. These disruptions impacting all internet users undermine freedom of expression, » said Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher.
« Given the political, economic and social context that Chad is facing, authorities should refrain from blocking access to the internet and ensure the right to freedom of opinion and expression before, during and after the presidential election.”
Regular internet disruptions since 2016
Organizations like Netblocks, Internet Sans Frontières and Access Now have reported a combined figure of 911 days of internet disruptions between the last presidential election in 2016 and 2021. These figures include days Chadians spent without internet and those they spent with restrictions on access to some social networks.
Internet access, phone calls and phone text messages were again disrupted for two weeks in the last two months. In 2020 alone, the country experienced 192 days of internet disruptions.
Human rights activists told Amnesty International that most of the restrictions took place during politically sensitive moments, such as the 2016 presidential election, demonstrations in support of dissenting voices, and the national forum for institutional reforms organized in November 2020 by the authorities.
“During the 2016 presidential election, authorities took isolation measures and censorship to prevent opposition candidates from discussing between them the way the ballots were conducted,” one human rights activist, based in the capital N’Djamena, told Amnesty International.
In July 2020, access to social media was restricted following the killing of a young mechanic in N’Djamena market by an army officer. In February 2021, it was restricted again during a raid by security forces on the house of an opposition presidential candidate who had refused to respond to a judicial summons. WhatsApp and Facebook are the most targeted social networks according to an activist.
Activists prevented from speaking out against human rights violations
The restrictions of the internet and access to social media networks are taking place in a context of increasing use of social networks by the population, who want to stay informed on the news in the country.
Human rights activists told Amnesty International that internet restrictions have seriously impeded their ability to expose human rights violations and peacefully mobilize action in protest against them. They also limit the visibility of their actions via the internet.
‘’ The government is accountable for these internet cuts which impact my activities as an activist. Using the internet is the only way we can inform national and international opinion of the government’s actions,” another activist said.
A member of a civil society organisation told Amnesty International that the persistent internet cuts have a severe impact on youths who use social networks as their main information channels. “That’s why when the internet is cut, few people are able to respond to calls for protests,” he added.
The authorities have regularly cited internal security and the maintenance of public order as reasons to justify shutting down the internet. In March 2018, they justified the internet restriction for security reasons and the context of ‘’ terrorist threats’’. New restrictions again took place in July 2020 and authorities claimed they were temporary measures to limit the spreading of hate messages and division.
One user said that many Chadians use the internet for online sale, and the cuts have social and financial repercussions on them. According to figures documented by several organisations, the restrictions on access to internet cost the country 23 million USD between July and December 2020.
Violation of international law
Since August 2018, several organisations in Chad have taken initiatives to fight against internet restrictions and cuts. They have set up a pool of lawyers and lodged a complaint against the two local mobile operators, Airtel and Tigo, for blocking access to social media networks. In October 2020, a court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that it was “unfounded”.
In a 27 June 2016 resolution, the UN Human Rights Council stated that measures aimed at preventing or deliberately disrupting access to information or the dissemination of information online are an international human rights law violation. It called on all states to refrain from and end such practices.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa also said cuts to the internet and social media violate the rights to freedom of expression and access to information. In a 29 January 2019 statement, he added that citizens should not be penalized by internet cuts when demonstrating, calling for political and economic reforms or during electoral processes or ballots.
Repression of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly
Amnesty International documented numerous attacks on freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly over the past year in Chad.
On 6 February 2021, several opposition members, unemployed youths, and human rights defenders who wanted to organize a protest on the country’s economic, social, and political situation were arrested. The protest was banned. Some of them were sentenced while others given suspended sentences.
In December 2020, a human rights defender was arrested and taken into custody after being invited by a private radio station to comment on the ban of a civil society forum on institutional reforms that was a direct response to one organized a month earlier by the government.
Access to the internet is indissociable from freedom of expression. The Chadian authorities should guarantee to all their fundamental rights in accordance with international law and the country’s laws.
During his interview, the police stormed the radio premises and arrested several people including journalists who were there at the same time for training. The journalists were released hours after their arrest.
“Access to the internet is indissociable from freedom of expression. The Chadian authorities should guarantee to all their fundamental rights in accordance with international law and the country’s laws,” said Abdoulaye Diarra.
Chad: Authorities must investigate raid and killings at presidential contender’s house
1 March 2021, 16:55 UTC
Responding to a raid by Chadian security forces on the house of opposition presidential candidate Yaya Dillo and the subsequent killing of at least two members of his family, Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher, said:
“Authorities in Chad must urgently launch an independent, impartial and effective investigation into the use of fatal force during a raid on opposition presidential contender Yaya Dillo’s house and the killing of his family members.
“Yaya Dillo has stated that his mother, his son and three of his supporters were killed during a raid by security forces. According to the government, the police attempted to serve two judicial warrants and responded to gunfire coming from Dillo’s house, and that two people were killed and five injured, including three members of the security forces.
These killings highlight the high tension in Chad ahead of next month’s election characterized by human rights violations with bans on demonstrations and arbitrary arrests already in place.
“These killings highlight the high tension in Chad ahead of next month’s election characterized by human rights violations with bans on demonstrations and arbitrary arrests already in place. There are also reports of an internet shut down, in what is an unjustified attack on media freedom and freedom of expression.
“Against such a volatile backdrop and fearing wider violence, we call on the Chadian authorities to set up an independent and effective investigation of the police use of fatal force to establish the facts and to ensure that anyone criminally responsible is held to account through a fair trial. The authorities must also reverse the rapidly shrinking political and civic space in Chad by ensuring the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and by keeping the internet running.”
Yaya Dillo, an opposition candidate in Chad’s 11 April presidential election, said his house was raided by security forces and the army on Sunday, and that his mother, his son and three of his relatives were killed in the attack.
In a statement, the government spokesperson and Minister of Communication said the raid followed “the systematic refusal for 48 hours by Mr. Yaya Dillo, supported by a group of armed people, to respond to two judicial warrants, challenging the authority of the state by opposing armed resistance”.
The Minister of Communication said defense and security forces attempting to execute these warrants were shot at from Dillo’s house and had no other choice but to act in self-defense to protect themselves. He said two people were killed and five injured, including three members of the security forces.
Chad: Opposition members and human rights activists banned from freely protesting ahead of election
(Press Release February 9, 2021 )
The ban on public demonstrations and the arbitrary arrests of opposition members and civil society activists at the weekend send a wrong signal on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly ahead of the Chad’s presidential election in April, Amnesty International said today.
While a platform bringing together political parties, human rights associations, and civil society, called for a protest on 6 February, the authorities issued a decree on 4 February banning all demonstrations across the country, citing fears of public disorder. At least 14 people arrested on 6 February were charged yesterday with “assault and battery, disturbing public order and destruction of state property” before being remanded in custody in the capital N’Djamena. Around 30 others were sentenced yesterday to between two and three months in prison in the southern town of Moundou where some of them were arrested on 4 February while preparing the protest.
Over the last three months, authorities in Chad have several times banned demonstrations in the country and carried out arbitrary arrests. These bans are unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
“Over the last three months, authorities in Chad have several times banned demonstrations in the country and carried out arbitrary arrests. These bans are unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher.
“The situation confirms the rapidly shrinking civic space in Chad, as elections approach despite the Constitution and international law guaranteeing every citizen the right to freedom of association and demonstration. The authorities must drop the charges and release all those arrested solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in N’Djaména and elsewhere.”
According to information received by Amnesty International, police on 6 February fired tear gas at protesters in N’Djamena to disperse a gathering which was starting to form.
Some protesters including the leader of the opposition party “Les Transformateurs” are still at the US Embassy where they took refuge when police started firing tear gas.
In November and December last year, Amnesty International documented the resurgence of attacks on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Chad, denouncing and calling on the authorities to end restrictive measures imposed on opposition parties by a police unit.
HUMAN RIGHTS REFORMS NEEDED IN CHAD:
Ratify outstanding international treaties including the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, International Convention on Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers, and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Protect human rights defenders from reprisals in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
Accept visits by UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, violence against women, rights to water & sanitation, human rights defenders, and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.
Amend ordinances regulating public meetings and protests to insure they meet international human rights standards on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful Allow civil society platforms to carry out their activities without fear of prosecution or reprisals.
Cease using charges of contempt of court and defamation to restrict the right to freedom of expression. Stop misusing the criminal justice system to target people for exercising rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including human rights defenders and journalists.
Unregistered associations should not be illegal. Members should not be subjected to criminal sanctions due to lack of registration.
Unblock access to all websites because of content critical of authorities, and refrain from restricting access to the internet and messaging apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
Refrain from using language that disparages or discriminates against human rights defenders and journalists, characterizing them as “rebels”, “enemies” or “opponents.”
Investigate threats, attacks, and intimidation against human rights activists and journalists, and bring the suspected perpetrators to justice in fair trials.
Insure a clear chain of accountability within the Agence Nationale de Securité (ANS), so that its powers of arrest are subject to judicial oversight, and persons who are victims of abuse by the ANS have effective recourse and access to reparation. Publicly instruct the police, army, ANS, and gendarmerie to end unlawful arrest, incommunicado detention, extrajudicial executions, and detentions without charge beyond the 48-hour period stipulated in the Criminal Code.
Permit all detainees, after their arrest and regularly during their detention, to see their families, independent medical practitioners, and lawyers of their choice.
Allow independent human rights monitors access to all detention centers. Regulate the ANS so that it complies with UN good practices on legal and institutional frameworks for intelligence services and does not detain individuals in unregistered or unlawful facilities.
Insure that current austerity measures do not result in discrimination of any kind, prioritize the most marginalized groups when allocating resources. Maintain Chadians’ economic, social and cultural rights to health care, education and adequate standard of living.
Overview of the human rights situation in Chad
President Déby publicly stated in December 2007 that “too much liberty kills liberty. Too much liberty leads to disorder. Too much democracy destroys society.” A Transitional Military Council (CMT in French) seized power on April 19, 2021, after Chad’s President Idriss Déby was killed during a conflict with the armed opposition group FACT.
Chad’s recent history has been marked by constant security concerns and threats caused by both the external environment of Chad (sharing borders with fragile countries: Niger, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Sudan, South Sudan and Libya) and internal challenges, sporadic friction with armed groups and civil unrest. Security has become the excuse that the Chadian authorities give for restraints on freedoms of expression, including press freedom, political activism, and access to social media.
When President Idriss Déby Itno seized power from former President Hissène Habré in December 1990, he promised to end the human rights violations and other abuses that were common during the period of Habré’s rule. In his first public speech, he declared there would be “no more military campaigns, no more political prisons” and that he would lead Chad towards “a system of government based on democracy… democracy in its fullest sense.” However, the government and security forces have consistently resisted pressure to comply with the international and human rights treaties that Chad ratified and are part of its Constitution.
Torture, rape, and other forms of ill-treatment in detention are routine in Chad. Prison conditions are already dire, and at worst, life-threatening. Detainees are at greater risk of ill-treatment, torture or extrajudicial execution when held incommunicado or in unauthorized or undisclosed places of detention.
When a coalition of armed opposition groups attacked N’Djamena in 2008, at least 380 people were arrested and detained, including opposition leader Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, who was subjected to enforced disappearance. His whereabouts remain unknown. An alleged coup attempt in 2013 was suppressed when security forces indiscriminately opened fire on a group of unarmed people and killed several. A number of political opponents were detained and charged with “conspiracy, endangering the constitutional order and complicity of assassination.” The situation has worsened since 2015. Security threats and discontent related to the country’s current economic crisis have provided a context for a new wave of repression. State efforts to repress the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association intensified during a period that included a highly contested presidential election, attacks by Boko Haram, and a severe economic crisis provoked by a sharp drop in the price of oil (Chad’s main source of funds). As political and economic discontent has grown, individuals and organizations have increasingly voiced dissent, and the Chadian security services have responded by banning protests and arresting, prosecuting and intimidating government critics.
The right to peaceful protest is recognized by the Chadian Constitution. Chadian security forces have broken up unauthorized demonstrations, sometimes using excessive and deadly force. In March 2016, police were caught on video beating and humiliating dozens of students who had been protesting in N’Djamena, following a protest in which one student was killed. In February 2016, at least 40 activists belonging to the Collective of Chadian Youth Associations and Movements (CAMOJET) were arrested for participating in two peaceful protests, while in December 2016 security forces occupied the headquarters of the Union of Chadian Trade Unions and prevented female members from holding a demonstration against government austerity measures. Individuals involved in organizing such protests are arrested and prosecuted on charges including public disorder, incitement to an unarmed gathering, defamation or contempt of public authorities. In March 2016 four leaders of pro-democracy movements and organizations, Celine Narmadji, Nadjo Kaina, Mahamat Nour Ibedou and Younous Mahadjir, were arrested for planning a peaceful public demonstration against President Déby’s bid for re-election. In a similar case, a year later, Nadjo Kaina together with Bertrand Solloh, two leaders of the citizen movement Iyina – ‘we are tired’ in Arabic – were arrested by agents of the National Security Agency (Agence Nationale de Securité, ANS) for calling on citizens to wear red on 10 April 2017 to show their solidarity. Kaina and Solloh were detained by the ANS without access to their families or lawyers before being handed over to the judicial police, charged with attempted conspiracy and organizing an unauthorized gathering. They reported being tortured while in detention.
Human rights defenders and journalists have told Amnesty International how they have been threatened and intimidated by either anonymous individuals or those identifying themselves as members of the security services. For example, in February 2017, Eric Kokinagué, the Director of Publication of the newspaper Tribune Info, received more than a dozen anonymous threatening calls from different numbers after he published an article heavily critical of President Déby. The columnist who wrote the article, Daniel Ngadjadoum, was abducted by armed men, detained for 24 hours in what he believes to be an ANS facility and forced to write a letter of apology.In January 2017 the Minister of Territorial Administration, Public Security and Local Governance issued a decree denying a request made by eight civil society organizations to peacefully protest against austerity measures. He announced in the media that “The civil society protest scheduled for 25 January is strictly forbidden on the whole national territory […]. The defense and security forces are required to ensure the implementation of this decision.” Two days later, the protest was banned. During the protest, tear gas was used, and at least seven peaceful protesters from the Chadian Convention for Human Rights (Convention Tchadienne pour la défense des droits humains, CTDDH) were arrested. They were charged with rebellion, participating in an unarmed gathering and public disorder and released after 22 days in detention. Versinis Nelly, spokesperson of the Collectif contre la vie chere was beaten by security forces and taken to the judicial police headquarters. Djimet Wiche, a journalist at Alwihda Info, was also beaten by security forces while covering the protest.
The repression faced by human rights defenders, civil society organizations, trade unions, journalists and others is carried out by different arms of the state, sometimes working in parallel. There is the official justice system including the police, the gendarmerie and the courts, and there is the National Security Agency (ANS) – the successor to the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), Hissène Habré’s intelligence services. ANS agents have been involved in the surveillance, intimidation, arrest and detention of critics of the government. The ANS has an essential role in the repression of human rights defenders in Chad. While the ANS is not accused of crimes on the same scale as those committed by the DDS – responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people between 1982 and 1990 – the two agencies share a mandate, structure and methods that facilitate the continued commission of human rights violations. The mandate provided to the ANS is both vague and far reaching, focusing on “subversion and destabilization directed against the vital interests of the state and the nation” but also “any mission with which the political authority may entrust it.” The broad powers and mandate provided to the ANS have allowed it to repress government critics. The mandate of the ANS lacks the limitations and safeguards recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. The ANS’s powers increased in January 2017. It was given legal powers to “arrest and detain suspects for purposes of investigation, where they represent a real or potential threat, in accordance with the laws of the Republic.” Even without these new powers, the ANS had for years already been illegally arresting people and detaining them in unofficial detention facilities, holding people without charge long beyond the legal limits and without providing access to families and lawyers. Although Article 243 of the Chadian criminal procedure code states that “preventive detention must be carried out in a prison” and that custody periods must be carried out at the judicial police or gendarmerie brigades, people arrested by the ANS are instead typically detained in ANS facilities. Senior state officials interviewed by Amnesty International refused to comment on the legality of ANS detention centres, describing it as “classified information.” The founding decree of the ANS underlines that the agency is also “subordinated” to the Presidency, who has authority over ANS’ missions, organization and attributions. The ANS has nearly complete impunity for human rights violations committed its custody.
Surveillance and online censorship
Chadian authorities use surveillance methods to follow the activities of human rights defenders without providing the protections required by regional and international standards. Some HRDs and journalists described how, after being arrested, ANS agents and the judicial police told them that they had listened to their calls and showed them a record of their phone conversations and SMS messages. Sources within private telecommunication companies in Chad confirmed the practices of phone tapping and monitoring calls, saying that the authorities justify it for national security reasons. To date, there is no law requiring judicial oversight for any surveillance activities. Further, the N’Djamena Public Prosecutor confirmed that he has never delivered a legal authorization for surveillance to any institution or individual. In response to these surveillance tactics, human rights defenders increasingly use social media sites and messaging services such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber to share information and communicate. Throughout much of 2016, from before the Presidential election in April until the end of the year, the Chadian authorities restricted access to social media platforms and messaging services including Facebook and WhatsApp. Since mid-March 2018, access to some social media has been restricted. E.g., Mahadine Babouri was a Chadian online activist, a blogger who was arrested on September 30, 2016 and held for three days at a facility run by the National Security Agency (Agence National de Sécurité, ANS), where he was denied visits from his family or lawyer. He was tortured, beaten up and subjected to electric shocks. He was then held in several facilities including the prison in Moussoro, from which he was transferred to Amsinene prison in Ndjamena on February 21, 2018. Mahadine was originally charged with undermining the constitutional order, threatening territorial integrity and national security, and collaborating with an insurrectional movement. If convicted he could have faced life imprisonment. Mahadine was one of 10 prisoners of conscience highlighted as part of Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights campaign in 2017. Over 690,000 actions were taken from people across the globe for his immediate release. They also called, pending his release, for his transfer to the Amsinene prison to be closer to his family. Mahadine is one of dozens of human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists in Chad who have been arbitrarily arrested in recent years for criticizing the government. On 30 December 2021, Baradine Berdei Targuio was arrested on 24 January 2020 and spent about 17 months in arbitrary detention; the first seven incommunicado. Two days before his arrest, he posted on Facebook about the President’s alleged poor health and expressed concern for the human rights situation in the Tibesti region in Chad. On 18 September 2021, he was sentenced to three years in prison for breach of the constitutional order. On 10 June 2021, he was provisionally released from detention with restrictions to his movements and right to freely speak.