Djibouti: What are the authorities hiding?

Press release
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The Djibouti authorities have arrested and expelled an ILO representative tasked with investigating the trade union situation in that country and are refusing entry to a joint FIDH/ICFTU mission to Djibouti.

The FIDH and ICFTU have condemned the arrest and today’s expulsion of a representative of the International Labour Office (ILO) by the Djibouti authorities.

Mr Ibrahim Mayaki, an ILO official and holder of a diplomatic passport, had been on an official visit to Djibouti since Saturday, 1 April 2006. His brief was to meet with human rights defenders, including trade unionists, pursuant to complaints reported to his organisation about violations of trade union rights and legal harassment targeting several trade unionists in the Djibouti courts. To this end, he met with representatives of civil society, trade unionists and representatives of the national authorities, specifically the minister for justice.

According to information received by the Djibouti Human Rights League (an FIDH member organisation) and by the Djibouti Labour Union (an ICFTU affiliate), Mr Mayaki was arrested at his hotel on Monday morning at 8.30 by two members of the National Police General Intelligence Service, who had no special warrant to do so. He was interrogated by the security forces for more than three hours at the General Intelligence Directorate about his activities in Djibouti. Before being released, the Djibouti authorities forced him to sign an expulsion order, effective today.

The FIDH and ICFTU stress that the expulsion comes in the wake of the refusal by the security forces to let two FIDH/ICFTU investigators enter Djibouti territory on Saturday 1 April 2006, despite a verbal agreement by the minister for the interior that there would be no obstacles to their application for a visa at Djibouti airport. They were jostled, insulted and forcefully returned to the airplane that brought them to Djibouti. The investigators submitted a new visa application at the Djibouti embassy in Ethiopia, so far to no effect.

These events demonstrate the reality of repeated violations of the rights of human rights defenders in Djibouti and portend an increasingly repressive approach by the Djibouti authorities to trade unionists and human rights defenders. The attitude of the Djibouti authorities confirms the fears of the FIDH and ICFTU about the highly political nature of the current trial against four trade union leaders who are being prosecuted for “secret contacts with a foreign power” [1]

The trial is only the latest episode in the campaign of harassment against Djibouti trade unionists, as condemned in the annual reports issued by the ICFTU and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders for many years now [2]

The FIDH and ICFTU condemn the attitude of the Djibouti authorities towards the ILO representative and its investigators and request that the government and legal authorities stringently apply international human rights instruments, specifically International Labour Organisation Conventions No 87 and No 98 as well as the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (1998).

The FIDH and ICFTU call on the Djibouti authorities to authorise free access to the country’s territory for human rights NGOs and INGOs. They will continue to inform the international and regional organisations of the human rights situation in Djibouti.

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