Attacks on civil society increased ahead of Djibouti election

Association

An increase in detention, arrests, violence, harassment and intimidation of civil society activists, human rights defenders, independent journalists and citizens was witnessed  in the run-up to the April 2016 presidential election

In December 2015, Saïd Hussein Robleh, Secretary General of the Ligues Djiboutienne des Droits de l'Homme (LDDH), Djibouti's only remaining human rights organisation, was  twice attacked by the police force. First he was publicly beaten by the Chief of Police, and was hospitalised for his injuries, on 10 December 2015, International Human Rights Day. He subsequently received throat and collarbone injuries after being shot at by the police on 21 December 2015, following security force attacks in Bouljougo, discussed further below.

Saïd Hussein Robleh was arrested and briefly detained following his release from hospital on 29 December 2015, along with Omar Ali Ewado of LDDH, who had compiled a list of the 27 people killed on 21 December. Omar Ali Ewado remained in detention and was handed a three month prison sentence on 17 January 2016 for 'inciting public hatred and spreading false news'. He was  released from jail on 14 February 2016 after the Appeal Court found that his trial had not been valid. The police also raided LDDH's offices on 29 December 2015 and seized computer equipment and archives.

Expression

On 1 April 2016, a week before the presidential election, a BBC journalist team was  detained for 18 hours before being expelled from Djibouti, despite having the correct accreditation. An explanation for this arbitrary detention is yet to be given. 

The expulsion of the BBC team forms part of a broader pattern of restriction of the freedom of expression, in which journalists are frequently harassed, intimidated and arbitrarily detained. Journalists also also subject to heavy fines, and the Freedom of Communications Law provides for jail terms for offences and imposes age and nationality restrictions on media practice. The only independent media outlet, La Voix de Djibouti, maintains its independence by broadcasting from outside Djibouti.

Peaceful assembly

The government of Djibouti imposed a state of emergency in November 2015 following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. This has given the government wide powers to dissolve peaceful assemblies.

At least 27 people were killed and over 150 wounded when government forces broke up a religious festival in Bouljougo on 21 December 2015.