CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Djibouti

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 09.10.2018 at 14:17

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Relations with Eritrea renewed, while non-commitment to human rights recommendations is criticized

Relations with Eritrea renewed, while non-commitment to human rights recommendations is criticized

Association

Following the adoption Djibouti’s Universal Periodic Review report by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders) and the Djiboutian Observatory for the Promotion of Demo­cracy and Human Rights (ODDH)  highlighted the government’s willingness to only accept vague recommendations, and the lack of consistency of some of its replies. The organisations also noted that Djibouti was yet to implement recommendations which it had committed to implement, from its previous review in 2013.

Hassan Shire, Executive Director, Defend Defenders said;

"We fear that the inconsistencies we identified in Djibouti's replies reflect a lack of political will on the part of the government to implement its obligations… it is particularly worrying [that the] government accepted to 'prevent the use of excessive force [against] civilians,' yet refused to accept a more precise recommendation is 'Improving training programs for security force to put an end to acts of violent repression of peaceful demonstrations'."

Djibouti has received experts on the human rights situation in Somalia and Eritrea, but has never accepted any visit requests by other mandate holders concerning its own human rights situation. In an annual report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released on 12th September 2018, Djibouti featured on a list of 38 countries the UN said carried out "shameful" practices including harsh reprisals and intimidation against people cooperating with it on human rights, as well as ill-treatment, detention, surveillance, and public stigmatisation of victims and human rights defenders.

On 12th September, it was reported that Djibouti and Eritrea would soon normalize relations, ending a decade-long rivalry between the two neighbouring countries. The dispute stemmed from a 2008 border skirmish that left several dead, leaving relations frozen for years despite several attempts at mediation. The thawing of relations comes three months after Eritrea entered into an agreement to renew relations with Ethiopia after decades of rivalry, as previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor.

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.