Human rights abuses and instability continued to mark eastern Chad despite the deployment of a UN peace-keeping mission. Civilians and humanitarian workers were killed and abducted; women and girls were victims of rape and other violence; and children were used as soldiers. The authorities failed to take adequate action to protect civilians from attacks by bandits and armed groups. Suspected political opponents were unlawfully arrested, arbitrarily detained and tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Harassment and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders continued. Demolition of houses and other structures continued throughout 2009, leaving thousands of people homeless.
Discussions continued about the postponed legislative and presidential elections, scheduled for 2010 and 2011 respectively, and about implementation of the political agreement signed by 17 Chadian parties on 13 August 2007 in N’Djamena. The census for the election was completed on 30 June. New legislation on political parties was passed by the National Assembly on 16 July and the 30 members and the head of the electoral commission were appointed by presidential decree in July despite protests from the opposition. On 25 July, the government signed a peace agreement with the Mouvement National, a coalition of three Chadian armed opposition groups.
Several previous peace agreements signed between Chad and Sudan were not implemented. On 3 May, the two countries signed another agreement in Doha, brokered by the Qatari government. Discussion on the implementation of all the signed peace agreements continued throughout the year.
In addition to the refugees in eastern Chad (see below), at least 56,000 refugees from the Central African Republic were living in camps in the south.
The security situation remained volatile and there were widespread abuses, despite the full deployment of 806 personnel of the Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS), a UN-supported Chadian security force responsible for securing towns and sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) in the east, and the presence of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). On 14 January, the UN Security Council extended MINURCAT’s mandate until March 2010 and authorized the deployment of a military component to take over the European Union military operation, EUFOR. A Memorandum of Understanding between MINURCAT and the Chadian government, and a technical arrangement with EUFOR relating to the transfer of EUFOR assets to MINURCAT, were signed in February. As of 15 September, MINURCAT had deployed 2,665 troops, just over half the number pledged.
In January, eight armed opposition groups formed the Union des forces de la résistance (UFR, Union of the Forces of Resistance), a coalition led by Timane Erdimi, a former advisor and nephew of President Idriss Déby Itno. In early May, fighting erupted between the UFR and the army around the village of Am Dam on the border with Sudan. The government said that 225 opposition fighters were killed and 212 taken prisoner, and that 22 soldiers were also killed. The Chadian air force subsequently bombed Sudanese territory and in retaliation Sudanese forces bombed areas around the Chadian town of Bahai in late May. Sudan complained to the UN about the Chadian attacks on its territory.
Abuses by armed groups and bandits
Chadian and Sudanese armed groups as well as bandits operating in eastern Chad killed and raped civilians and kidnapped people for ransom, including humanitarian workers. According to the UN, there were 192 attacks on humanitarian workers in eastern Chad between January and mid-October. On 13 November, six non-governmental aid agencies suspended operations in eastern Chad after a surge in attacks on humanitarian workers and relief agencies.
- On 26 October, Michel Mitna, head of the Guereda office of the Commission nationale d’accueil et de réinsertion des réfugiés (CNAR), Chad’s national refugee body, was shot dead by bandits. He was travelling in a vehicle clearly marked as belonging to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, between Guereda and Abeché, eastern Chad. His driver was injured. The attackers escaped.
- On 9 November, Laurent Maurice, a French agronomist employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was abducted by armed men in the village of Kawa, around 20km from the Darfur border. The ICRC then suspended its operations.
Violence against women and girls
Women and girls continued to be subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence in eastern Chad. The perpetrators of such crimes enjoyed virtual impunity.
The army and armed opposition groups, as well as Sudanese armed groups, continued to recruit and use child soldiers in eastern Chad.
- During the May fighting with the UFR, the army identified 84 child soldiers among the UFR fighters and handed them over to UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund. The children were later transferred to a transit centre.
Refugees and internally displaced people
Eastern Chad continued to host more than 260,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 refugee camps and at least 180,000 IDPs in 38 sites. Both refugees and IDPs lived in precarious conditions and lacked protection, especially when they ventured outside refugee camps or IDP sites. They were frequently attacked by Chadian and Sudanese armed groups, members of Chad’s security forces, and bandits.
The whereabouts of dozens of men who disappeared between 2006 and 2008 after arrest by government forces remained unknown. Among them was opposition leader Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, arrested on 3 February 2008 and feared dead.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
The authorities frequently arrested and arbitrarily detained people without charge. Some were held in security services’ facilities where visits are not allowed.
- On 20 July, Haroun Mahamat Abdoulaye, Sultan of the Department of Dar Tama, eastern Chad, was arrested at his home by police and then held without charge at the security services’ facility in N’Djamena. He had previously been arrested in November 2007 on suspicion of involvement with the United Front for Democratic Change, a former armed opposition group.
Violence against women and girls
Various forms of violence against women and girls continued, including female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Forced marriages were imposed on girls as young as 13, including in refugee camps and IDP sites.
- In August, the UN Human Rights Committee called on Chad to protect a girl from sexual abuse in prison. Forced to marry when only 13 and imprisoned since 2004 on suspicion of poisoning her 70-year-old husband, she has been repeatedly raped in prison and gave birth as a result.
Freedom of expression – journalists
Journalists continued to be intimidated and harassed. Decree No.5, which was issued by the President during the state of emergency in February-March 2008, remained in force. The Decree restricted press freedom and increased penalties that could be imposed on journalists. It provided for up to five years in prison for publication of “false news’’ and for a new offence of “insulting the president, the head of government, ministers or foreign diplomats’’.
- On 14 October, Innocent Ebodé, Cameroonian chief editor of the newspaper La Voix du Tchad, was summarily deported from Chad. The authorities accused La Voix du Tchad of not respecting administrative regulations covering the publication of newspapers in Chad and its chief editor of staying illegally in Chad since his arrival in June 2009. The deportation followed an article criticizing the Environment Minister’s suggestion that the Nobel Peace Prize should have been awarded to President Idriss Déby Itno for his environmental work.
- On 28 November, Eloi Miandadji, a reporter with La Voix du Tchad, was detained for several hours and the memory card of his camera was confiscated by security personnel after he introduced himself to and requested an interview with the Minister of the Interior and Public Security. The incident happened after the Minister verbally abused Eloi Miandadji when he asked a question about the use of police vehicles. Eloi Miandadji was later made to sign a document stating that he was not going to write about his arrest or the question related to the police vehicles. The Minister told him that La Voix du Tchad would soon be closed. On 3 December, a N’Djamena court ordered the closure of the newspaper and the seizure of all copies of it.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders continued to face threats, attacks and intimidation.
- On 13 October, Michel Barka, chairperson of the Union Syndicale du Tchad (UST), a large trade union, was followed while driving and then forced to stop. He reversed and escaped. Later the same day he was again followed, this time by a motorcyclist who pointed a gun at him.
- Also on 13 October, Masalbaye Tenebaye, President of the Chadian Human Rights League (Ligue Tchadienne des droits de l’homme, LTDH), was followed on his way home after meeting an international partner organization. The same people followed him the next day. State officials met Masalbaye Tenebaye on 20 October and assured him that they would take measures to protect him and would investigate the incidents.
People continued to be forcibly evicted in 2009 and their homes destroyed in several N’Djamena neighbourhoods, including Moursal, Chagoua and Goudji, leaving thousands homeless.
Using commercial satellite imagery, Amnesty International established that more than 3,700 structures were destroyed in the year up to January 2009. Some inhabitants were given adequate warning that their houses were going to be demolished, but most were given no notice. The houses of some were demolished despite court orders protecting them. Very few of the people forcibly evicted were given alternative housing or compensation.
- Apollinaire Nodjohoudou Djeria, whose house was demolished in late 2008 in defiance of a court order, was told he would receive compensation in 2009 by the Mayor of N'Djamena. However, by the end of the year he had received nothing.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Eastern Chad and N’Djamena in April and May.
- Chad: Open letter to the Security Council
- Chad: Broken homes, broken lives
- “No place for us here’’ – Violence against refugee women in eastern Chad
- Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcome on Chad