Human rights in Djibouti

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The issue of human rights in Djibouti, a small country situated within the Horn of Africa,[1] is a matter of concern for several human rights organizations. In its 2011 Freedom in the World report, Freedom House ranked Djibouti as "Not Free", a downgrading from its former status as "Partly Free".[2] The nation most recently saw martial violence in 2008, in the form of border clashes with neighbouring Eritrea.[3]

History (1977–2006) and political situation[edit]

Djibouti gained independence from France in 1977, after a 98.8% of the electorate voted in favour of disengagement in a referendum.[4] Hassan Gouled Aptidon became president and his political party, the People's Rally for Progress, was declared the sole legal party in 1981.[5] It has remained in control ever since, under Aptidon until 1999, and Ismaïl Omar Guelleh thereafter.

The following is a chart of Djibouti's ratings since 1977 in the Freedom in the World reports, published annually by Freedom House. A rating of 1 is "free"; 7, "not free".[6]1

Aptidon regime (1977–1999)[edit]

Claims of political detentions and torture began almost immediately after independence. On 15 December 1977, seventeen supporters of the opposition Mouvement populaire de libération were arrested and tortured.[10] In 1978, fifteen students, visiting from their studies abroad in Paris, were sentenced to months in jail and reportedly tortured for articles written by their student union in France.[10] After an armed attack in 1979 in Randa, sixty Afars were detained and at least one died as a result of torture.[10] It was claimed that many were arrested solely for their membership of the Mouvement populaire de libération.[11] After a supposed assassination attempt on the Director of Security in June 1979 (the reality of which Amnesty International reported to be in doubt), nine political opponents, including two parliamentary deputies, were detained and tortured. One of these – Mohamed Houmed Mohamed – had previously delivered a parliamentary speech denouncing the government's use of torture.[12]

In August 1981 the Parti populaire Djiboutien sought legal recognition as a political party. In early September they released their first bulletin, and on 7 September all thirteen members of the Executive Committee were arrested, including six members of parliament. Included in the detainees was Mohamed Houmed Mohamed.[13] Some of these members fled the country after release, but were again detained and tortured upon their return from exile.[14]

Reported torture methods under Aptidon include (but are not limited to): severe beatings; waterboarding; burnings; tearing out of fingernails; electric shocks; prolonged exposure to smoke resulting in near-asphyxiation; "The Swing", in which the naked victim was suspended from a bar by his ankles; and insertions of bottles into the anus.[10][12]

Guellah regime (1999–)[edit]

Aptidon announced his retirement in February 1999 and the People's Rally for Progress chose Ismaïl Omar Guelleh as their presidential candidate. He handily won the April elections, with almost three quarters of the vote, defeating his only presidential rival, the independent Moussa Ahmed Idriss.[15][16] Idriss was arrested the following September for "threatening the morale of the armed forces" and detained at an undisclosed location.[17]

The People's Rally for Progress has continued to dominate politics under Guellah, taking advantage of a unique first-past-the-post system in which the majority winner in each of the country's five electoral districts carries all the seats. Thus, in the 2003 National Assembly elections, the coalition took all 65 seats with only 62% of the vote. Opposition parties boycotted both the 2005 and 2008 elections.[2]

In 2008, President Guellah issued a decree dissolving the opposition Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development party.[2]

In April 2010, the constitution was amended, lifting the two-term limit and allowing Guelleh to continue his tenure as president.[18] In June 2010, Djibouti's richest citizen and former friend of the president, Abdourahman Boreh, was convicted in absentia for terrorism. He lacked a defence lawyer and had been intending a presidential run for 2011.[2]

Current issues (2007–)[edit]

Freedom of speech[edit]

Both the main newspaper (La Nation de Djibouti) and broadcaster (Radiodiffusion Télévision de Djibouti) are controlled by the government. The opposition newspaper Le Renouveau ceased operations in 2007 after publishing an article claiming a businessman bribed Ismail Omar Guelleh's brother-in-law, the governor of the Central Bank of Djibouti.[2] On 2 July 2009, Ahmed Darar Robleh was arrested and later sentenced to six months in prison for writing poetry criticising the president.[19]

In February 2011 the government arrested dozens of political opponents, including six people who provide reporting to the European radio station, La Voix de Djibouti. These included Farah Abadid Heldid and Houssein Robleh Dabar, who were released four months later but again arrested in November.[20]

Freedom of religion[edit]

Freedom House claims that freedom of worship is respected in the country.[2]

Legal system[edit]

Djibouti abolished the death penalty in April 2010. The nation's legal system is based on the French civil code, with Shariah law handling family matters.[2]

Arbitrary arrests[edit]

Though arbitrary arrests are prohibited by law, third party organizations claim that this right is not respected.[20]

Security forces frequently make illegal arrests.[2] Jean-Paul Noel Abdi, president of the Djiboutian League of Human Rights, was arrested on 9 February 2011 after reporting on opposition protests in connection with the Arab Spring earlier that month. According to Human Rights Watch, he did not support the protests themselves but objected to what he described as arbitrary arrests.[21] He was later released on health grounds but the charges remain.[22]

Torture[edit]

Torture is banned by the constitution.[18] However, reports of its use continue to flow to the outside world.[20] Prostitutes are arrested by vice squads, and rape is reportedly a precondition of release.[23] There are occasional reports of police beating prisoners.[24] Reporters Without Borders claims that Dirir Ibrahim Bouraleh died from injuries sustained under torture by Sergeant Major Abdourahman Omar Said from 23 – 27 April 2011.[20]

Prison conditions[edit]

Djibouti has one central prison – Gabode in Djibouti City – and a number of small jails. Conditions in the system are reported to be "harsh".[20] While often overcrowded, prisoners in Gabode are fed three meals a day and have access to medical care. Conditions in the jails are considered worse, with no formal system of care. Human rights training is provided to guards by the government.[20]

Minority and women's rights[edit]

According to Freedom House, minority groups such as Yemenis and Afars face marginalization.[2]

Female genital mutilation is common. Equality, however, has been making strides; over 50% of judges are now women.[2]

International treaties[edit]

Djibouti's stances on international human rights treaties are as follows:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

1.^ Note that the "Year" signifies the "Year covered". Therefore the information for the year marked 2008 is from the report published in 2009, and so on.
2.^ As of 27 June (Independence Day) in 1977; 1 January thereafter.
3.^ The 1982 report covers the year 1981 and the first half of 1982, and the following 1984 report covers the second half of 1982 and the whole of 1983. In the interest of simplicity, these two aberrant "year and a half" reports have been split into three year-long reports through interpolation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Communication Officielle des Resultats du Recensement Général de la Population". Ministère de l'Economie, des Finances et de la Planification, Djibouti. 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Freedom House (2011). "Freedom in the World 2011: Djibouti". Freedom House. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  3. ^ "US condemns Eritrea 'aggression'". BBC News. 2008-06-12.
  4. ^ Elections in Djibouti African Elections Database
  5. ^ "Chronology for Afars in Djibouti", Minorities at Risk Project (UNHCR Refworld), 2004.
  6. ^ Freedom House (2012). "Country ratings and status, FIW 1973-2012" (XLS). Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  7. ^ Freedom House (2013). "Freedom in the World 2013: Democratic Breakthroughs in the Balance" (PDF).
  8. ^ Freedom House (2014). "Freedom in the World 2014" (PDF).
  9. ^ Freedom House (2015). "Freedom in the World 2015" (PDF).
  10. ^ a b c d Amnesty International (1979). "Djibouti". Amnesty International Report 1979. London: Amnesty International Publications. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0 900058 98 6. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  11. ^ Amnesty International (1981). "Djibouti". Amnesty International Report 1981. London: Amnesty International Publications. pp. 38–39. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  12. ^ a b Amnesty International (1980). "Djibouti". Amnesty International Report 1980. London: Amnesty International Publications. pp. 41–43. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  13. ^ Amnesty International (1982). "Djibouti". Amnesty International Report 1982. London: Amnesty International Publications. pp. 29–30. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  14. ^ Amnesty International (1984). "Djibouti". Amnesty International Report 1984. London: Amnesty International Publications. pp. 38–39. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  15. ^ "Proclamation du Président de la République de Djibouti par le Conseil Constitutionnel." Archived 2007-08-16 at the Wayback Machine, Journal Officiel de la République de Djibouti (in French).
  16. ^ Elections in Djibouti, African Elections Database.
  17. ^ "Horn of Africa, Monthly Review, September - October 1999", UN-OCHA Archive (accessed 23 February 2009)
  18. ^ a b "Djibouti's Constitution of 1992 with Amendments through 2010" (PDF). Constitute. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  19. ^ Amnesty International (2010). "Djibouti - Amnesty International Report 2010". Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (2012). "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Djibouti". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  21. ^ Peligal, Rona (17 February 2011). "Djibouti: Call to Drop Charges and Release Jean-Paul Noël Abdi, President of the Djiboutian League of Human Rights (Letter to His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti)". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  22. ^ Amnesty International (23 February 2011). "Djibouti: Further information: Activist released but charges remain: Jean-Paul Noel Abdi". Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  23. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (11 March 2008). "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007: Djibouti". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  24. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (11 March 2010). "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009: Djibouti". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  25. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 1. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Paris, 9 December 1948". Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  26. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 2. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. New York, 7 March 1966". Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  27. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 3. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Archived from the original on 17 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  28. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 4. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Archived from the original on 1 September 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  29. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 5. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  30. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 6. Convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes and crimes against humanity. New York, 26 November 1968". Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  31. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 7. International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. New York, 30 November 1973". Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  32. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 8. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. New York, 18 December 1979". Archived from the original on 23 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  33. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 9. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. New York, 10 December 1984". Archived from the original on 8 November 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  34. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11. Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York, 20 November 1989". Archived from the original on 11 February 2014. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  35. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 12. Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. New York, 15 December 1989". Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  36. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 13. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. New York, 18 December 1990". Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  37. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 8b. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. New York, 6 October 1999". Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  38. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11b. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. New York, 25 May 2000". Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  39. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11c. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. New York, 25 May 2000". Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  40. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 15. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York, 13 December 2006". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  41. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 15a. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York, 13 December 2006". Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  42. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 16. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. New York, 20 December 2006". Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  43. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 3a. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New York, 10 December 2008". Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  44. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11d. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure . New York, 19 December 2011. New York, 10 December 2008". Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29.

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