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16 February 1999
Further information on EXTRA 15/99 (AFR 23/01/99, 8 February 1999) - Prisoner
DJIBOUTI Aref Mohamed Aref, human rights defender and lawyer
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release
of Aref Mohamed Aref, a human rights defender and lawyer. On 15 February, Aref
Mohamed Aref was sentenced to a term of six months in prison after being found
guilty of politically motivated charges. Amnesty International considers him
to be a prisoner of conscience, detained for his work as a human rights
defender and for expressing critical views on the government of Djibouti.
Although they allowed him to have a defence lawyer during his trial, the
authorities denied visas allowing entry to Djibouti to lawyers from
international organizations wishing to defend Aref Mohamed Aref. The trial
lasted less than six hours. In addition to six months’ imprisonment, a two-
year suspended sentence was imposed. It is feared that, once released, the
authorities will use this suspended sentence to restrict his human rights
activities. Aref Mohamed Aref is subjected to harsh conditions of imprisonment
in the Gabode prison in Djibouti, the capital city.
A period of ten days has been granted in which to file an appeal.
On 5 December 1998, Djibouti security forces prevented Aref Mohamed Aref from
boarding a plane bound for Paris to attend a Human Rights Defenders Summit
organized by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. They
confiscated his passport, without explaining the reason, and have not yet
returned it. In November 1998, Aref Mohamed Aref had attended an African Human
Rights Defenders conference organized by Amnesty International in South
Africa. He is a member of a network of human rights defenders in Africa and is
the leading human rights lawyer in Djibouti.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/email letters in
French, English or your own language:
- calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Aref Mohamed
Aref, whom Amnesty International considers to be a prisoner of
conscience, detained for his work as a defender of human rights and for
expressing critical views on the government
- urging that he be allowed to communicate with his family and lawyers
while he remains in prison
- expressing concern about the harsh conditions of the Gabode prison and
urging that he be given the medical assistance he needs
- urging the authorities to ensure that any appeal procedure against the
six-month prison term and the two-year suspended prison sentence imposed
on Aref Mohamed Aref is consistent with international standards of fair