Increasing civic space restrictions months ahead of presidential poll
Tchad: plusieurs inculpations après une manifestation contre un 6e mandat du président Deby https://t.co/7vfSRfqZJ0 pic.twitter.com/PJ2CVmwLTl— RFI (@RFI) February 8, 2021
Protests against president Idriss Déby running for a sixth term: protest bans, arrests, prosecutions
On 4th February 2021, authorities issued a ban on protests across the country, citing fears of public disorder. The ban followed a call by a coalition of opposition parties, human rights organisations and civil society organisations to mobilise on 6th February 2021 to protest against president Idriss Déby running for a sixth term in the upcoming April 2021 elections. On 6th February 2021, more than 100 people were arrested throughout the country. On 8th February 2021, at least 14 people were charged with 'assault and battery, disturbing public order and destruction of state property' and ordered to remain in custody in Chad's capital N'Djamena. Among those charged figured Mahamat Nour Ahmed Ibedou, secretary general of human rights organisation Convention tchadienne de défense des droits humains (CTDDH). On 12th February 2021, the High Court of N'Djamena sentenced the human rights defender and eleven other protesters to a suspended prison sentence of three months. Two protesters were acquitted. In Moundou, about thirty people were sentenced to prison sentences between two and three months on 8th February 2021. They were arrested on 4th February 2021 while preparing for the march on 6th February. Abdoulaye Diarra of Amnesty International commented:
'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.'
Authorities further banned 'all protests and sit-ins' foreseen on 13th, 15th and 16th February 2021 across the country. Protests and sit-ins organised by civil society organisations and political opposition parties were planned for those days.
Tchad: la Cour criminelle condamne Baradine Berdeï Targuio à trois ans de prison ferme https://t.co/jC6AnCYPOL— Pressafrik.com (@Pressafrik) February 21, 2021
Three-year prison sentence for HRD
On 18th February 2021, the Criminal Court sentenced human rights defender and president of the human rights organisation Organisation Tchadienne des Droits Humains (OTDH; Chadian Organisation of Human Rights) Baradine Berdei Targuio to three years in prison for 'violation of the constitutional order'. As reported previously on the Monitor, the HRD was arrested at his home in N'Djamena on 24th January 2020, two days after he published a Facebook post alleging that the Chadian president Idriss Déby Itno 'might be seriously ill and hospitalised in France'.
HRDs arrested, prosecuted
On 27th November 2020, police officers detained spokesperson for the social movement Mouvement Citoyen le Temps, Alain Kemba Didah on the premises of radio station FM Liberté in N'Djamena. Two of Kemba Didah's colleagues were also detained, alongside others who were at the radio station including journalists (see under Expression). The arrests were made in relation to the organisation of the Citizen Forum, a citizen alternative to the National Inclusive Forum organised by authorities. The Citizen Forum, planned to start on 27th November 2020, was banned by authorities a day prior on 26th November. Police officers surrounded the premises of the radio station in the morning of 27th November in an attempt to prevent the broadcasting of an interview with the organisers of the Citizen Forum, including Kemba Didah. On 30th November 2020, Kemba Didah was charged with 'act of rebellion and disturbance of public order'. Twelve days later, the Court of First Instance of N'Djamena acquitted the HRD, who was released that same day.
On 11th January 2021, Dingamnayal Nély Versinis was placed in police custody following a defamation complaint by Mahamat Abali Salah, the Minister of Defence. The civil society activist, who is president of the Collectif tchadien contre la vie chère (Chadian Collective against Expensive Living), reportedly accused the Minister on his Facebook page of having diverted funds stemming from fines for violations of the COVID-19 measures. Dingamnayal Nély Versinis was released a day later, on 12th January 2021, and is to appear in court on 18th March 2021.
Offices of opposition parties, civil society organisations surrounded by police elite unit
According to Amnesty International, dozens of armed and hooded officers of the Mobile Intervention Police (GMIP) Unit surrounded the headquarters of political opposition parties and civil society organisations, preventing people from entering or leaving the premises. CSOs and opposition parties that were excluded from or refused to participate in the National Inclusive Forum, a national forum on political and institutional reforms organised by authorities from 30th October to 1st November 2020, were targeted. The incidents followed a press conference, on 28th October 2020, organised by opposition members and CSOs in which they denounced the conditions in which the Forum was taking place and called for an alternative forum. On 29th October 2020, GMIP officers surrounded the headquarters of the opposition movement Transformateurs and opposition parties Union nationale pour la démocratie et le renouvellement (UNDR), Parti pour les libertés et le développement (PLD) and Union des démocrates pour le développement et le progrès (UDP). On 2nd and 3rd November 2020, GMIP officers also surrounded the offices of the Union des syndicats de travailleurs (UST; Union of the Trade Unions of Workers) and human rights organisation Ligue tchadienne des droits de l’homme (LTDH). Meeting rooms at the LTDH offices were searched by police officers, without having presented a search warrant.
Chadian radio stations on strike in protest against violent raid https://t.co/bQ7UohZ8b3— CDD West Africa (@CDDWestAfrica) December 2, 2020
Police raid private radio station, detain 30 journalists
On 27th November 2020, police officers raided privately-owned radio station Radio FM Liberté when the radio station planned to interview organisers of the Citizen Forum on the authorities' ban on holding the Forum, which was issued the previous day. Police used tear gas in the court yard of the radio station, and arrested dozens of people, including 30 journalists, HRD Alain Kemba Didah and two of his colleagues (see under Association). Some of the journalists were roughed up. All journalists were released a few hours later. Arnaud Froger of Reporters without Borders (RSF) said:
"The security forces who raided this radio station used very violent methods, as if they were trying to break up a gathering of criminals. We unreservedly condemn this completely disproportionate use of force and the arbitrary arrests of journalists who were just doing their job, and we urge the authorities to safeguard the freedom of journalists to interview whomever they wish. The brutality of this raid is all the more worrying for having come at a time of serious threats to Chadian press independence.”
A one-day strike was organised by the Chadian Union of Privately-Owned Radio Stations (URPT) on 1st December 2020 to protest against the police violence and the raiding of the radio station. That day, 40 radio stations ceased broadcasting in 'a day without radio'.
Civic Space Developments