DJIBOUTI: FIDH demands the immediate release of LDDH President, Mr Zakaria Abdillahi

Press release
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FIDH protests the arrest of Mr Zakaria Abdillahi, President of its Djiboutian member organisation, the Djiboutian League for Human Rights (LDDH), on 23 January 2014.

Our organization calls for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as for the liberation of those arrested with him. As a lawyer and president of the LDDH, Zakaria Abdillahi defends many political activists.

The Djiboutian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Mr Zakaria Abdillahi whose only fault has been to tirelessly defend dozens of opponents and journalists frequently arrested and imprisoned in Djibouti, " said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. By imprisoning Mr Zakaria Abdillahi, the Djiboutian authorities seek to neutralize one of the few independent lawyers and defenders in the country ", he added.

On 23 January 2014, at around 4pm, Mr Abdillahi was arrested by gendarmes in Ali Sabieh, southeast of Djibouti with two of his friends (both French nationals), and his Djiboutian driver, Djibril, as well as Mahdi Ali and Ibrahim Waberi Dirir Farah, two elected officials of the Union for National Salvation (USN) of the Ali-Sabieh region, to whom Mr Abdillahi had been paying a visit. Whilst both elected officials were released that same day, Mr Abdillahi, his two friends and his driver were transferred to the capital city of Djibouti in the evening. They remain detained at the Research and Documentation Section (SRD) of the gendarmerie, without access to their families, a doctor or a lawyer.

On 24 January 2014, Mr Zakaria Abdillahi began a hunger strike to protest against his arbitrary detention.

Mr Zakaria Abdillahi is the legal representative for many Djiboutian opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders, who have been subjected to acts of harassment and repression by the authorities. In connection with his activities as a human rights defender, Mr Abdillahi had been receiving death threats and other pressures for several weeks. On 16 January 2014 he testified that “ Every day I visit detention centres and go to the court to try to legally assist arrested prisoners of conscience, but my access to those in custody is constantly denied, which is a flagrant violation of Article 10 of the Constitution guaranteeing the assistance of counsel ”.

This arrest is condemned by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and took place against a backdrop of increased police and judicial repression against political opposition parties, independent journalists and human rights defenders. On 22 January 2014, Ms. Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa to the African Union’s African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, expressed concern about the situation currently prevailing in the country.


Since the beginning of December 2013, dozens of opposition leaders and activists have been arrested and some even sentenced. Further, custody of arrested militants frequently extends beyond the legal duration permitted, sometimes by up to 11 to 17 days, as was the case for Oumar Waberi and Mohamed Gadito Chehem. Although these two activists were finally acquitted thanks to intervention from their lawyer, many others remain in detention for having asserted their opinion, and have not been effectively assisted by their counsel. Acts of torture, as well as other inhuman and degrading treatment, are regularly reported in detention centres in Djibouti and several militants have died in custody in recent years. The latest of these was Mohamed Elmi Rayale, a USN activist who died in Gabode prison on 29 August 2013. At the end of February 2013, protests against the method by which legislative elections were conducted led to mass demonstrations organised by the opposition. Those demonstrations were met with violent repression. Since then, arrests and trials against political opponents have taken place on a regular basis in Djibouti. In September 2013, FIDH and LDDH, through Mr Abdillahi, reminded the Human Rights Council of the United Nations of the dramatic situation of human rights in Djibouti, and in particular of political, public and union freedoms, as well as the persistent practice of torture in Djibouti.

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