Prominent Human Rights Defender Omar Ewado Arrested in Djibouti

Association

Omar Ewado, Director of the Ligue Djiboutienne des droits de l’homme (LDDH), was arrested by Djiboutian national intelligence agents at his home on 19th March 2017 at around 6pm. Dressed in plain clothing and heavily armed, the agents threatened his family and took him away in a minibus to an unknown location.

The reason for Mr. Ewado’s arrest is unknown, although he has in the past been detained for conducting his human rights work. In January 2016 Mr. Ewado was arrested and sentenced to three months in prison after being found guilty of public defamation by Djibouti’s Criminal Court. His arrest came after LDDH issued public statements condemning the security forces’ killing of up to 27 people during a public gathering on 21 December 2015. Mr. Ewado’s sentence was overturned on 14 February 2016 by the Appeals Court of Djibouti. Hassan Shire, Executive Director of regional rights group Defend Defenders called for his immediate release, stating:

"Djibouti remains one of the most difficult countries in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region for human rights defenders to do their work. Given the authorities’ track record of ill treatment and torture of detainees, we are extremely concerned about Omar Ewado’s arrest and incommunicado detention, and call for his immediate and unconditional release."

In separate developments, since 13th March 2017, four high profile members of the political party - Mouvement pour le Renouveau Démocratique et le Développement (Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development) have been arrested. One member was released but the others are still being detained without access to legal representation. Human rights groups believe the arrests to be politically motivated. In its 2016 annual report on Djibouti, the international NGO Alkarama cited the major human rights violations in the country, including a number of arbitrary arrests and detentions of opposition political party members. 

Expression

In addition to HRDs and political activists, media professionals, artists, and independent thinkers, writers and speakers in Djibouti are frequently subjected to interrogation, detainment and torture by the authorities. Most recently, in early March 2017, Idriss Hassan Mohamed, a famous caricaturist, was arrested and held in an undisclosed location for five days. According to the Ligue djiboutienne des droits de l’homme (LDDH) his leg was broken during the interrogation and detention. LDDH also claims he was arrested as retaliation for an article he published criticising the regime. In January 2017, Mohamed Ibrahim Waïss, a reporter for La Voix de Djibouti, was detained for six days, and according to Reporters Without Borders, the reporter was subjected to inhumane treatment and forced to sign a declaration as well as give his social media account passwords to the authorities.