CIVICUS

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Djibouti

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Last updated on 30.10.2017 at 09:47

Djibouti Overview

Aside from guarantees on paper, fundamental freedoms receive little or no protection in Djibouti, which has had the same head of state for almost 20 years.

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Several injured during protests in Tadjourah

Several injured during protests in Tadjourah

Reports from local rights groups indicated several injuries as a result of excessive force used against protestors in Tadjourah on 27th October.

DefendDefendersCIVICUS and the International Federation for Human Rights released a joint UPR stakeholder submission on 12th October ahead of Djibouti's May 2018 UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The joint submission outlines the continued unwillingness of authorities in Djibouti to address major human rights violations, such as the relentless targeting of human rights defenders, the limitations on and violations of civil and political rights, including continued intolerance towards critical and dissent voices. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 27th October, protests erupted in Tadjourah, northern Djibouti, where a port is to be built. Local rights groups reported to CIVICUS Monitor research partner that several protesters were seriously injured during demonstrations as they demanded jobs with the construction of the port. According to a press statement from local rights group - Ligue djiboutienne des droits de l’homme - the protests erupted because the list of candidates for jobs to build the port did not include local young people from Tadjourah. The statement also asserts that police used live ammunition and tear gas against protesters. One group on the ground alleged that several demonstrators were injured, including a ten year-old boy.

Association

On 2nd August 2017, opposition figure Mohamed Ahmed, known as Jabha, died in detention after spending seven years in Gabode central prison in very bad health. He was arrested in 2010 and accused of being an Eritrean agent but only went to trial in June 2017, during which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He has become a symbol of cases of arbitrary detentions in the country.

Association in Djibouti

Despite constitutional protections, civil society organisations and activists in Djibouti experience frequent violations of their right to associate freely.

Despite constitutional protections, civil society organisations and activists in Djibouti experience frequent violations of their right to associate freely. In December 2015, the head of the Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits de l’Homme (LDDH), the last remaining human rights organisation in Djibouti, was publicly harassed and beaten by the chief of police. A few days later, he was shot and critically injured in the throat by security forces. Despite the severity of his injuries, he was ordered to leave hospital after only 8 days. Other LDDH members were arrested and unlawfully detained; and the organisation’s offices were raided by police officers, who seized computer equipment and archives. It is not only human rights groups that have had their freedom of association violated in Djibouti. In 2014 for instance, individual teachers were targeted because of their union activities. Activists have also been prevented from travelling and had their passports confiscated.

Peaceful Assembly in Djibouti

In a country where power lies in the hands of a small political elite, peaceful protests are tightly controlled by the authorities.

In a country where power lies in the hands of a small political elite, peaceful protests are tightly controlled by the authorities. A state of emergency was introduced in the wake of terror attacks in other countries, granting the authorities the power to break up peaceful gatherings without adhering to due process. Protests in recent years, for example those against unfree elections in 2013, were violently suppressed by the authorities. The single most violent incident occurred in the early hours of 21 December 2015 when participants in a religious and cultural ceremony prepared to gather to read the Quran. They were shot at by police attempting to disperse the crowd, and although between 19 and 37 people lost their lives, the incident received scant international attention.

Expression in Djibouti

There is virtually no free media in Djibouti, and only one in ten people have access to external sources of news via the Internet.

There is virtually no free media in Djibouti, and only one in ten people have access to external sources of news via the Internet. A problematic communication law itself impedes free speech and media pluralism, while criminal defamation laws are used to clamp down on dissent. Having released a list of names of people massacred by security forces during the religious gathering in December 2015, human rights activist Omar Ali Ewado was arrested and charged with public defamation. He spent one and a half months in prison. There is just one independent news outlet in Djibouti – La Voix de Djibouti – a radio station which broadcasts from outside the country due to the threat of attacks against its journalists. Journalists that report on the treatment of human rights activists can themselves become targets for brutal treatment by the security forces.

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