REPUBLIC OF CHAD: Increasing use of repressive laws amid brutal crackdown on human rights activists

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15 Sep 2017
[International Secretariat]

Human rights defenders, citizens’ movements, unionists and journalists critical of the government are facing growing danger as the government increasingly uses repressive laws and intelligence service to muzzle critics and hamper their work, Amnesty International reveals in a new report published today.

The authorities have over the recent years responded to growing public discontent, with ever greater restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Since early 2016, ahead of the April presidential election, the authorities have intensified their efforts to repress human rights. In 2016 alone, Amnesty International documented at least 13 ministerial decrees banning peaceful protests. More than 65 associations had not been granted permission to organize a protest between 2014 and 2016.

Unregistered social movements and platforms have been declared “illegal” and this has been used to justify the arrest of civil society leaders.

Sinister role of ANS agents

At the heart of much of this repression is the national agency for security (ANS). The ANS’s mandate was expanded in January this year allowing its agents to target and arrest human rights defenders on the grounds of national security.

The ANS had already been illegally arresting people and detaining them in unofficial detention facilities, without allowing access to families and lawyers.

“This sinister role highlights the ANS’s unchecked power to crackdown on human rights defenders and must be stopped. To reduce the chance of gross human rights violations and impunity occurring, the authorities must ensure there is a clear chain of accountability within the ANS and that it is subject to judicial oversight,” said Alioune Tine.

Threatening phone calls and surveillance

Human rights defenders are also subjected to threatening anonymous phone calls and surveillance. Of the 45 activists interviewed by Amnesty International, only two said they had never received such calls.

The authorities have not denied using surveillance and the Minister of Security told Amnesty International in a meeting: “You can be listened to and spied on - it's the job of security services”.

In 2016, ahead of the election, the government banned social media platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook for much of the year. At least 10 websites critical of the government remain blocked in the country until March 2017.

An online activist Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri has been detained since 30 September 2016, after having posted several videos on Facebook criticizing the government’s management of public funds. Suspected of four charges including undermining the constitutional order, he awaits trial and if convicted, he could face life imprisonment.

Sylver Beindé Bassandé, a journalist and director of community radio was also sentenced to two years in prison in June for complicity in contempt of court and undermining judicial authority.

“Chad is at a crossroads. The authorities must choose whether they would continue to stifle political opposition and muzzle critics, or honour the promises made by President Idriss Déby upon his assumption of power,” said Alioune Tine.

“We call on them to amend restrictive laws regulating public gatherings, associations and the right to strike, reform the ANS, and immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.”

14 September 2017

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