Chad: Justice needed for October raid (2023)

nairobi —Investigate murders, torture, deaths in custody, illegal detentions

ChadThe interim government must end its crackdown on opponents and make amends for serious human rights abuses committed in connection with the October 20, 2022 protests, Human Rights Watch said today.

The authorities are obliged to carry out prompt, independent, thorough and transparent criminal investigations into serious human rights violations, including killings, deaths in custody and torture, related to the October 20 crackdown, and to hold those responsible accountable. They were designed to release protesters detained before and after the unfair summary trials that took place from late November to early December, and those still in pretrial detention.

“The violence against the protesters was extreme and disproportionate, leaving dozens dead and injured and hundreds detained without access to lawyers or family members,” he said.lewis mudge, director for Central Africa at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities must immediately ban the use of live ammunition against protesters and invite United Nations experts to conduct independent investigations."

From former president Idriss Débyhe diedIn April 2021, the transitional government headed by Déby's son, General Mahamat Déby, took office.various occasionsviolently suppressed protests demanding a civilian democratic government. The government is particularly targeting opposition parties. On October 20, 2022, thousandswent out on the streetin the capital, N'Djamena, and in several other cities in southern Chad, including Moundou, Doba and Sarh, to protest against the current interim government's decision to extend the transition period by two years.

According to Human Rights Watch, security forces fired live ammunition at protesters, killing and injuring dozens of people, beating people, chasing them to their homes, and arresting them. Relatives and witnesses said those arrested were held for several days in local police stations and in at least one school in N'Djamena. So hundreds of men and boys were brought to them.koro toro, a high-security prison 600 kilometers from N'Djamena designed to house "violent extremists."

Human Rights Watch researchers visited N'Djamena between November 13 and 21, where they interviewed 68 victims, relatives of victims, witnesses, civil society organizations, lawyers, and government officials. Human Rights Watch also met with the country's deputy prosecutor, the president's human rights adviser, and members of the National Human Rights Commission (Commission Nationale des Droits de l'Homme, CNDH) to share preliminary investigations and gather additional information. Human Rights Watch also requested meetings with the justice and public security ministers, the prime minister, and the president, all of which were denied.

In late December and January, Human Rights Watch spoke with four people, including two children, who were detained at Koro Toro. They said several people died on the way to and from the detention center, were often denied food and water, and children were kept in the same cells and rooms as adults for at least the first two weeks. Human Rights Watch has yet to determine how many people died in transit and on Koro Toro.

Witnesses, including members of the international community, said the protesters were not armed but used slingshots to hurl rocks at soldiers and set government property on fire. mediareportedthat protesters attacked police stations and destroyed property.

the fulltribute in violenceis still unknown. According to the Chadian authorities, 50 people were killed, including about 15 policemen, and 300 were injured. Human Rights Watch could not confirm the police deaths, but human rights groups believe the number of protesters and residents killed could be much higher than official figures and suspect that some people are still missing.

Internationalstandardsclarifying on the use of force that "law enforcement officers must use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent necessary for the performance of their duty", the use of force must be exceptional and "the use of weapons of fire will be considered an extreme measure”. ”.

In early December, 401 suspects were caught red-handed (in act) was tried for various crimes, including unauthorized assembly, destruction of property, arson, and disorderly conduct. Between 150 and 200 more remain to be brought to justice.

have lawyersdenouncedthe trials in Koro Toro as unfair and with serious logistical problems, including the location of the detention center in a remote location, far from the capital. Under Chadian law, authorities can detain detainees for up to 48 hours and then must release them or provide evidence that further detention is necessary. In that case, a prosecutor told Human Rights Watch that the people were held in “pretrial detention,” which is allowed for up to six months.

The detainees were effectively being held incommunicado in Koro Toro because they had no access to family or lawyers, Human Rights Watch said. In addition, relatives and lawyers of detainees whose whereabouts are still unknown have requested information from the authorities without success and can be considered cases of forced disappearance. Authorities are expected to release a list of all those arrested during the October 20 protests and release them on bail. If a court decides there are legal grounds for continued detention, the authorities must transfer them to N'Djamena, where they can access family or lawyers and participate in transparent public trials.

Chad's constitution and international human rights obligations guarantee all detainees the right to access a lawyer, family visits and medical care, rights that were not respected in this case. The arbitrary and violent nature of the arrests, the lack of transparency of the trials, and the inaccessibility of the accused are serious violations, Human Rights Watch said.

Under international law, children can only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest period of time that is reasonable. Detained children must be separated from adults unless it is not in the best interest of the child.

In the days after the violence, acommission of inquirywas announced under the auspices ofEconomic Community of Central African States(ECCAS), one of the eight regional economic communities of the African Union. Civil society leaders and lawyers in N'Djamena told Human Rights Watch that they did not trust the independence or effectiveness of the ECCAS investigation and advocated for technical assistance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to carry out the investigation. to make it more effective.

On October 22, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) condemned the excessive use of force against protesters and expressed deep concern over the events of October 20. The Chadian authorities must ensure respect for freedom of expression, assembly and association. including lifting athree month banon opposition parties imposed during the protests, Human Rights Watch said.

“Chad must choose the path of respect for basic human rights, not violent repression, and ensure opposition party members and protesters have a voice and are heard,” Mudge said. "To do otherwise would not only treat Chad's international legal obligations with complete disregard, but is a guarantee of more protests, instability and unrest."

See below for more details, testimonials, and recommendations for further investigation.

Increased repression leading to the October 20 protests

The attack on October 20 took place after asharp increasein the repression of protests shortly before and since the assassination of Idriss Déby in April 2021.presidential election of April 11, 2021, the use of tear gas to disperse and injure protesters and human rights defenders, and the arbitrary detention of hundreds of members and supporters of opposition parties and civil society activists, some of whom were subjected to severe beatings and other ill-treatment.

After the 2021 elections and the death of Idriss Déby, the security forces attack againexcessive force used, including indiscriminate live ammunition to disperse opposition-led demonstrations across the country. Several protesters were killed, authoritiestakenActivists and members of opposition parties and security forces attacked journalists covering the protests.

Murders and injuries linked to the October 20 protests

The protests challenged the government's ban on protesting on October 19. Many of the protesters were members or supporters of the opposition Transformers party (Les Transformateurs). Witnesses said that security forces, including members of the Presidential Guard, police officers and armed men in civilian clothes driving unmarked cars, entered areas inhabited by communities known to support political opposition groups, including the Transformers. and Wakit Tamma (The time has come, in Chadian Arabic).,a coalition of Chadian opposition parties and civil society organizations. Transformers president Succès Masra fled the country shortly after the protests.

In Chagoua and Moursal, two neighborhoods in N'Djamena, investigators found that security forces dragged men and boys out of houses, often in groups, and broke down doors, witnesses said. Security agents shot some of the men.

In one case in Moura, soldiers followed a 23-year-old student, Ndignodji Nodjingar Mathieu, into a bedroom and shot him as he hid under a bed. The soldiers then dragged his body outside and tried to take it away, but "we were all against it, so they left the body outside and the family came to take it away," a witness said. "We found him dead," another witness said.

In another case, 21-year-old Djambaye Emmanuel was shot dead in the street in front of the house of the President of the National Assembly.

In another case in the same neighborhood, relatives said that Blasé Djikossi, 25, was arrested at his home. Although it is not known what happened to him, a relative said Djikossi died with several others in a truck accident on the way to Koro Toro.

In the Walia neighborhood of N'Djamena, a man told investigators that his nephew, Nasingar Urbain, 32, who had a disability, was shot dead outside his compound as he watched the protests from afar. "I couldn't run," said the man. "He was watching from afar and the military shot him dead in the street." Urbain died in hospital four days later, leaving behind a daughter and a pregnant wife.

Human Rights Watch recorded two cases of men who were violently arrested by the military in the early hours of October 21 and later died in military custody.

Theodore Diontilo, 32, was sleeping at his home in the Dembe district between 2am and 3am when the military stormed the compound where he lived. The men accused Diontilo of being a member of the Transformers and arrested him along with several others. Members of Diontilo's family searched for him for several days and later discovered that his body was in a local morgue.

Investigators found that security forces arrested men and boys at a primary school in the Abena district of N'Djamena and severely beat the detainees. A man detained at the school said he was tied up with other detainees, four of whom were severely beaten.

Djide Philomon, 43, was detained at the Abena school for three days, relatives said. They beat him so severely that he was transferred to a military hospital in N'Djamena. Relatives who managed to visit him said that his body was swollen and he had difficulty moving and speaking. Visitors last saw him at the hospital on November 4, but he died the next day. According to his death certificate, he died of a heart attack after being "traumatized by torture following the October 20, 2022 protests."

The soldiers also beat passers-by. At around 6:00 p.m. on October 21, after the curfew, the military intercepted a 60-year-old man who was buying airtime for his phone in the Atron district and beat him so hard with a rifle butt that caused him to lose his left eye. . .

"Two Toyota trucks ran towards me and then stopped," he said. "Something told me not to run. The soldiers came down and hit me in the face with their rifle butts. I fell to the ground bleeding. There's nothing I can do now. I'm home."

Arbitrary arrests, detentions

The United Nations estimates that more than 1,400 people were arrested during the operation in various parts of the country. In Novemberthe officers announcedthat 621 people were in Koro Toro, including 83 children, without publishing a list.

A month later, many relatives of those detained or disappeared said they still had no information on the whereabouts of their loved ones. Others received calls from the International Committee of the Red Cross or letters from detainees confirming that they were in Koro Toro.

According to press reports, of the 401 people charged in the summary trial on December 2, 59 were acquitted, 262 were sentenced to two to three years in prison, and 80 received suspended sentences of one to two years.reports. On December 18, 139 of those convicted were transferred to N'Djamena andin accordance withto the local media, they were released. The 83 children detained in Koro Toro have been transferred to N'Djamena, where they will be tried by a juvenile judge, lawyers who are prosecuting the cases of people in Koro Toro said.

The four people Human Rights Watch interviewed about Koro Toro said they were released on December 18. They said they saw several people die in the open trucks that took them to Koro Toro, as they were full without food or water during the three-day journey. "When someone died in the truck, the soldiers told us to throw the body away," said a former prisoner.

Other former detainees said that several people in Koro Toro had died from lack of food and water or other health problems. An independent investigation will be crucial to determine how many people died in transit or on Koro Toro, Human Rights Watch said.

Another 150 to 200 detainees at Koro Toro await charges for what are believed to be more serious crimes. Not all the names of the defendants were released, which confused some relatives about the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed relatives of dozens of men and boys detained at various locations in N'Djamena.

A 70-year-old man who lives near Abena Primary School said: “On the 21st, at 5 am, the soldiers came to my house and opened the door. They saw me and said: 'You are old, where are your children? ? … They found my three children and took them directly from my house to school.”

In some cases, the security forces carried out mass arrests of people in the same residential area. In Chagoua, in the seventh district of N'Djamena, security forces arrested 16 men at a compound shortly after midnight on 21 October. Relatives said soldiers began breaking down doors and arresting men and boys. In late November it was confirmed that one was in custody at a police station in N'Djamena, three in Koro Toro and five were later tried in a summary trial in Koro Toro.

In Moursal, in the 6th arrondissement, security forces cordoned off an area and went from house to house arresting men and boys. "They dragged the men out of the rooms and took them away," a witness said, describing the arrest of three men in their compound. His neighbor described a similarly violent arrest of six men and boys from her compound: "They broke down the door and took a boy out of the bathroom before going into the house to arrest the others."

Another neighbor, a man in his 70s, described the arrest of his brother, Nanimian Ezekiel, 57, and four other family members at his compound. A nephew who managed to escape said: “To our surprise, the military forced their way in. […] They broke down the door. We were all together. Get us I was helped by a neighbor who hid me in the confusion.

Another man in the same area said his cousin, Abba Hassane Tagahm, 32, was arrested on his doorstep. A man from the Adala neighborhood said soldiers arrested him outside his house while he was talking to a neighbor. They forced him into the truck, forced him and two other prisoners to clear the roadblocks, and then released them.

"I still have punch marks on my back and arms," ​​he said.

Detention and Abuse at Abena Elementary School

According to witnesses, late on October 19, security forces began rounding up men and boys in the Abena district and detaining them at local police stations. “Around 10pm, the police and the army were already near the Transformadores headquarters [in Abena] and fired tear gas,” said a local resident. “They started to lock young people out of their houses to prevent them from protesting.”

On October 20, as the protests subsided, security forces began using the primary school as a detention center for at least four days, holding dozens of men and possibly boys in small rooms, investigators found. Witnesses said they were afraid to leave the house to investigate, but they heard the detainees' screams and believed they had been beaten.

Human Rights Watch researchers viewed buildings used by security forces to hold men and possibly children. A man who lives near the school and was present when the men were arrested said: “During [the night] we heard them being beaten. We couldn't hear what they were saying, just the screaming."

Another man who lives near the school said: “On the 20th there were shots [from the school]. The classes became prisons. They used two buildings. The screams were terrible. I could hear the screams all night, screams of pain."

A 29-year-old man who was held at the school for 24 hours said:

“I live very close to the school. On the 21st we were at home. Around 1 in the afternoon […] more than 10 soldiers broke down the door [of our facilities]. My brother and I were taken to school. he was taken to the smaller building and placed in a classroom with 23 other men and boys. We had to urinate and defecate inside the house. If you asked for something, they beat you. [...] a guy there, he [Transformers member] was beaten badly. The soldiers put a plastic bag over his head, he did not die, but he defecated. They [also] brought in four people and really beat them up. Three of them were detained in the office of Yaya Diallo [political opponent]."

A 22-year-old man who was also detained at the school said he too saw beatings and was told by a police officer: "We can kill them all in this class, but it would be a waste of bullets."

A CNDH official confirmed that they also had information that the school was being used as a detention center.

Need for a credible and independent investigation and criminal accountability

The Chadian authorities didlittle or no progressInvestigation of complaints of human rights violations. Various initiatives by civil society activists and advocacy groups are underway to collect complaints from victims, but efforts may be hampered by the inability of authorities to prosecute those responsible for the abuse.

Due to the serious crimes committed by the Chadian security forces on October 20 and in the days that followed, the international community must respond vigorously.

Representatives of the ACHPR Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and Enforced Disappearances in Africa and its Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa should request visits to Chad to conduct investigations into the allegations public.

The AU and the UN Human Rights Office must work with the government to ensure that there is a credible independent investigation that meets international standards and is adequately resourced to carry out its work promptly and publish its findings fairly. timely. Such an investigation could be carried out by or with the assistance of one of the UN human rights organizations that has the technical expertise to conduct independent investigations in accordance with international law.

The AU, the European Union and the UN should also urge the Chadian authorities to ensure prompt, independent, fair and open criminal investigations into all crimes committed and any possible cover-ups, leading to fair and effective prosecutions in accordance with international standards. . including protesters who may have attacked security forces and security forces who gave orders or have leadership responsibilities.

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