Chad: Opposition members and human rights activists banned from freely protesting ahead of election

The ban on public demonstrations and the arbitrary arrests of opposition members and civil society activists at the weekend send a wrong signal on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly ahead of the Chad’s presidential election in April, Amnesty International said today.

While a platform bringing together political parties, human rights associations, and civil society, called for a protest on 6 February, the authorities issued a decree on 4 February banning all demonstrations across the country, citing fears of public disorder. At least 14 people arrested on 6 February were charged yesterday with "assault and battery, disturbing public order and destruction of state property" before being remanded in custody in the capital N'Djamena. Around 30 others were sentenced yesterday to between two and three months in prison in the southern town of Moundou where some of them were arrested on 4 February while preparing the protest.

Over the last three months, authorities in Chad have several times banned demonstrations in the country and carried out arbitrary arrests. These bans are unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher.

“Over the last three months, authorities in Chad have several times banned demonstrations in the country and carried out arbitrary arrests. These bans are unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher.

“The situation confirms the rapidly shrinking civic space in Chad, as elections approach despite the Constitution and international law guaranteeing every citizen the right to freedom of association and demonstration. The authorities must drop the charges and release all those arrested solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in N’Djaména and elsewhere.”

According to information received by Amnesty International, police on 6 February fired tear gas at protesters in N’Djamena to disperse a gathering which was starting to form.

Some protesters including the leader of the opposition party “Les Transformateurs” are still at the US Embassy where they took refuge when police started firing tear gas.

In November and December last year, Amnesty International documented the resurgence of attacks on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Chad, denouncing and calling on the authorities to end restrictive measures imposed on opposition parties by a police unit.