Media statement on Chad: Release civil society activists ahead of April 10 elections

Ahead of the Chadian presidential elections scheduled for 10 April 2016, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the release of five arbitrarily detained civil society activists. The activists have been detained for peacefully opposing the candidature of incumbent President General Idriss Déby Itno, who is also the current rotating chair of the African Union.

“Several civil society platforms demanding political change in Chad have been protesting since February this year against President’s Déby’s attempt to extend his 25 year rule,” said David Kode, Senior Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “The response of Chadian authorities and security agencies has been to impose blanket restrictions on democratic activities to enable the President to remain in power.”

The Minister of Public Security and Immigration has put in place a ban on any public activities outside of election campaigning, promising to punish offenders. On 21 and 22 March 2016 respectively, human rights defenders and members of the civil society platform Ça Suffit (It’s Enough) Mahamat Nour Ibedou and Younous Mahadir were arrested and detained for their role in planning peaceful protests against President Déby’s decision to contest the forthcoming elections. 

The authorities also arrested Nadjo Kaina Palmer of the Iyina youth movement and Celine Narmadji of the “Trop c’est Trop” (Enough is Enough) group on 22 and 23 March respectively as organisers of the protests. They have been charged with “incitement to an unarmed gathering,” “disobeying an order” and “disturbing public order.” A fifth activist and one of the leaders of the Ça Suffit movement – Albissaty Salhe Alazam was arrested on 4 April, a day before another planned protest.

Before these arrests,  on 5 and 6 February 2016, security forces forcefully dispersed a group of protestors led by the Collectif des Association et Movement de La Chad (CAMOJET), together with human rights defenders and representatives of civil society organisations. Seventeen protesters were arrested and detained for two days, during which time some were tortured.  Security officials fired tear gas into the cell of the detained protestors, injuring some who had to seek urgent medical attention.  All the protesters were eventually released, though their access to the internet, particularly social networks, was blocked to restrict communication.

Chad remains under the totalitarian rule of President Idriss Déby Itno. Despite constitutional protections, civic freedoms and pro-democracy activities are tightly controlled, especially when citizens engage on political issues.

CIVICUS urges the immediate and unconditional release of the detained civil society members whose only crime has been to seek the exercise of their freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.