Authorities target, harass, detain HRDs
Djibouti held its parliamentary elections on 24th February 2023. Two main opposition parties - the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (MRD) and the Republican Alliance for Democracy (ARD) - boycotted the elections due to claims that the elections would not be free or fair. As a result, only two parties ran for seats in the 65-member National Assembly.
On 4th March 2023, the Djiboutian League for Human Rights (LDDH) reported that Adan Mohamed Abdou, Secretary-General of trade-union Union Djiboutienne du Travail (Union of Djiboutian Workers, UDT) had been assaulted and had his passport confiscated at the Ambouli airport upon his return from a mission abroad. According to LDDH, this is part of the Djiboutian government’s strategy of infiltrating independent organisations to “clone” them in order to take control. Other civil society figures, like Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, Secretary-General of an opposition party, MoDeL, has had his passport confiscated for five years, since an April 2018 mission to take part in the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in Geneva.
On 14th March 2023, Alexis Deswaef, Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was detained at his hotel by the Djibouti Security and Documentation Service. During his visit, he had met with Zakaria Abdillahi, former President of the Ligue djiboutienne des droits humains (LDDH), the FIDH member organisation in Djibouti, as well as other civil society representatives, trade unions, opposition leaders, several Western chancelleries and UN representatives. His notes, phone and SIM cards were confiscated before he was taken to the airport and forced to board a flight to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. On 12th March 2023, a programme officer on a mission for FIDH was denied entry with no explanation despite having a valid visa.
Alexis Deswaef, FIDH vice-president and honorary president of the Ligue des Droits Humains en Belgique (LDH) said:
"The lack of regard for human rights and the authoritarian drift of the Djiboutian state is alerting… Our expulsion raises an essential question: what do they have to hide to make them so afraid of an NGO mission? There will be no respite until we have answers."