Executive Summary

The Union of the Comoros is a constitutional, multiparty republic. The country consists of three islands: Grande Comore (also called Ngazidja); Anjouan (Ndzuani); and Moheli (Mwali); and claims a fourth, Mayotte (Maore) that France administers. The 2019 presidential elections were not free and fair, and international and domestic observers noted the election was marked by significant irregularities. The opposition did not recognize the results due to allegations of ballot stuffing, intimidation, and harassment. International observers considered the January 2020 legislative elections to be generally free and fair, although the opposition boycotted the elections and did not recognize the results.

The National Development Army and the Federal Police have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. The National Development Army includes both the gendarmerie and the Comorian Defense Force. It reports to the president’s cabinet director for defense. The Federal Police report to the minister of interior. The National Directorate of Territorial Safety, which oversees immigration and customs, reports to the minister of interior. The gendarmerie’s intervention platoon also may act under the authority of the interior minister. When the gendarmerie serves as the judicial police, it reports to the minister of justice. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over police and other security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against an individual in another country; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, and the existence of criminal libel laws although not enforced; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; severe restrictions of religious freedom; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic or intimate partner violence and sexual violence; trafficking in persons; and existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

Impunity for human rights abuses and corruption was widespread. Although the government sometimes arrested or dismissed officials implicated in abuses or corruption, they were rarely tried.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future