Djibouti: Political opponents shot dead by security forces during demonstration

Press release
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From the afternoon and late night of 25 February, security forces shot on demonstrators contesting the legality of Djibouti’s legislative elections of 22 February and protesting the mass arrests of opponents. Current estimates of the death toll already stand at around ten persons, with about 15 persons injured, including serious injuries, and hundreds of arrests. FIDH and LDDH strongly disapprove of the use of disproportional force in this situation, which does not comply with international law instruments for the protection of human rights applicable in Djibouti. Our organisations call on the parties to return to calm and for the Djiboutian authorities to open a judicial inquiry.

At an information meeting organised by opposition parties but prohibited by the Ministry of Interior, numerous demonstrators came to express their discontent over the organisation and progress of the legislative elections, and to the mass arrest of opponents on Monday, 25 February, until late into the night despite the existence of a curfew. Security forces responded to the protest with bullets shooting at demonstrators. Witnesses report ten dead, including Youssouf Mahmoud Ahmed, member of the political party, Union for National Salvation (USN), and Kadir Mahmoud, a high school student. Those severely injured included Abdourahman Barkat God and Abdourahman Souleimane Bechir, both leaders of the MoDel party, and Khalid Mahmoud and Hussein Omar Abar, both high school students. The true figure of those killed or injured however remains unclear as arrests have prevented people from being brought to hospital.

Hundreds have been arrested and are presumably being detained in Nagad administrative detention centre. Among them, there are 35 female MoDel militants. Police detaining these women have demanded 400,000 Djiboutian Francs for their release. One of the captives is Saada Abdi Ibrahim, wife of MoDel militant, Abdourahman Barkat God. Saada Abdi Ibrahim is diabetic and remains without medicine. The conditions of her detention therefore raise concern about her well being.

Moreover, at least three MoDel followers, Abdourahman Barkat, Souleiman Béchir and Guirreh Medal, have already been remanded by Djiboutian courts and condemned to 3 months of imprisonment at Gabode’s prison for “incitement to insurrection”. These men have been refused the assistance of both a lawyer and a doctor. The main opposition leaders remain under house arrest, in detention or with outstanding proceedings against them. These measures show the absolute and radical nature of the repression of political opposition in Djibouti.

“Once more, we condemn the violent response of security forces towards demonstrators. Those acts are symptomatic of a power that has always sought to silence critics of its governance” , said Paul Nsapu, FIDH Secretary General. ”The attitude of the security forces is reprehensible and must be subject to a judicial inquiry” , he added.

A video of demonstrators in the area of Balbala spreads on social network. We can hear police forces shooting to disperse the mob which responds with stone throwing.

While demonstrations and their suppression continue, our organisations call upon the Djiboutian authorities to immediately cease using guns to secure order. We urge all political parties to call upon their followers to remain calm.

FIDH and LDDH also request the Djiboutian authorities to take immediate steps to shed light on the acts of security forces and condemn the authors of human rights violations. We call upon the authorities to free arrested opponents and respect the freedom of assembly, demonstration and expression guaranteed by international and regional conventions ratified by Djibouti.

FIDH and LDDH call upon the international community, in particular the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, France and the United States, to strongly condemn the human rights violations committed by the Djiboutian authorities, and to call for a political solution to the crisis.

Students at Djibouti University demonstrated on 26 February in front of the Courthouse. Video published on YouTube.

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