Djibouti: Stop repression and ensure credible elections

Press release
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FIDH and its member organisation, the Djiboutian League for Human Rights (LDDH), express serious concern about the poor political and security context prevailing in Djibouti on the eve of elections, scheduled for 22 February 2013. Our organisations denounce the heightened number of arrests, acts of harassment, and other forms of intimidation against members of the political opposition and their supporters. These acts jeopardise the holding of free, transparent and peaceful elections. FIDH and LDDH call upon Djiboutian authorities to guarantee strict compliance with the rights and freedoms enshrined in national and international instruments relating to elections.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Djiboutian political opposition parties will participate in the country’s legislative elections. United for a month within the Union for National Salvation (USN), several representatives have faced arbitrary arrest and detention, acts of harassment and other forms of intimidation. Since his return from exile on 13 January 2013, Daher Ahmed Farah, President of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (MRD), and spokeperson of the USN has been arrested four times. On 6 February 2013, nearly 300 people demonstrating for Farah’s release before Djibouti’s Court of First Instance, were arrested by police and later released. At least 5 of these persons remained in custody for two days. On 15 February, three other senior USN officials, Guirreh Meidal, Abdourahman Barkat God and Abdourahman Bashir , were arrested and interviewed by police.

"These successive arrests – often made with no legal basis – discredit the will of the Djiboutian authorities to allow any form of political pluralism. As legislative elections approach, it is imperative that the authorities end these acts of intimidation and secure people’s ability to go to the polls without fear of reprisal said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

For over ten years, opponents, trade unionists, human rights defenders and citizens have been suffering from continuing repression in Djibouti – repression that has intensified during each election period. The presidential election of April 2011 saw the most severe repression in the country’s history with dozens of young demonstrators killed and hundreds more arrested and detained for months. "The current situation is reminiscent of the context of 2008 and 2011’s elections. The international community must not remain silent before this denial of democracy" said LDDH.

FIDH and LDDH call on the Djiboutian authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the Djiboutian Constitution, the 1992 Electoral Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all of which guarantee the organisation of free, fair and transparent elections. Our organisations also call upon the international community, particularly the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States (LAS), the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), which has dispatched election observers on site; the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is now entering its 13th extraordinary session; the United Nations and European Union, to:

  • Denounce acts by the Djiboutian State that violate human rights, particularly in the current pre-electoral context ;
  • Determine conditions for exercising the right to vote and the validity of the ballot ;
  • Prompt Djiboutian authorities to comply with their international and regional commitments.
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