Djibouti is a republic with a strong elected president and a weak legislature. In April 2010 parliament amended the constitution to remove term limits, facilitating the April 8 reelection of President Ismail Omar Guelleh for a third term. The president won with 80 percent of the vote against one independent candidate, who was supported by one of two opposition coalitions that had boycotted the election until April 3; the other coalition did not participate in the election. International observers characterized the election as free and fair, although they criticized preelection planning and the presence of security forces at polling stations. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.
The 2010 constitutional amendment removing presidential term limits, general dissatisfaction with the government, student unrest, and high levels of unemployment contributed to popular protests in February. On February 18, security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse violent young protestors who remained following a peaceful demonstration. One civilian and one police officer were killed, and numerous demonstrators were injured. The subsequent security crackdown resulted in numerous arrests, detentions, and criminal proceedings against demonstrators. Between March 25 and April 8, the official campaign period, the government banned opposition rallies.
The most serious human rights problem in the country was the government’s abridgement of the right of citizens to change or significantly influence their government; it did so by harassing, abusing, and detaining government critics and by its unwillingness to permit the population access to independent sources of information within the country.
Other human rights problems included the use of excessive force, including torture by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and prolonged pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; interference with privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly and association; lack of protection for refugees; corruption; discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; and government denial of worker rights.
Officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.