Chad is a centralized republic in which the executive branch dominates the legislature and judiciary. In April 2016 President Idriss Deby Itno, leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), was elected to a fifth term with 59.92 percent of the vote. While the election was orderly and had a high voter turnout, it was neither free nor fair, and there were numerous irregularities. Runner-up Saleh Kebzabo, who received 12.8 percent of the vote, refused to accept the outcome of the election, stating it was an “electoral stickup.” In the 2011 legislative elections, the ruling MPS won 118 of the National Assembly’s 188 seats. International observers deemed that election legitimate and credible. Since 2011, legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed for various reasons and, at year’s end, had not been rescheduled.
Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control of the security forces.
The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary killings by security forces and use of torture; security force abuse; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, incommunicado detention; denial of fair public trial; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement; limited ability of citizens to choose their government; government corruption; violence against women and children, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); early and forced marriage and the sexual exploitation of children with inadequate government action to enforce accountability; trafficking in persons, particularly children; and criminalization of same sex sexual conduct.
The government seldom took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, and impunity was a problem.
Members of Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant terrorist group, killed numerous persons in the country, often using suicide bombers.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution provides for freedom of opinion, expression, and press, but the government severely restricted these rights, according to Freedom House. Authorities used threats and legal prosecutions to curb critical reporting.
Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits “inciting racial, ethnic, or religious hatred,” which is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of one to three million Central African (CFA) francs ($1,766 to $5,300).
Press and Media Freedom: The government subsidized the only daily newspaper and owned a biweekly newspaper. Government and opposition newspapers had limited readership outside the capital due to low literacy rates and lack of distribution in rural areas.
According to Freedom in the World 2016, “broadcast media were controlled by the state, and the High Council of Communication exerted control over most content on the radio,” which remained the most important medium of mass communication. The government-owned Radio Diffusion Nationale Tchadienne had several stations. There were approximately a dozen private stations, which faced high licensing fees and threat of closure for coverage critical of the government, according to Freedom House. The number of community radio stations that operated outside of government control continued to grow, and radio call-in programs broadcast views of callers that included criticism of the government.
The country had three television stations–one owned by the government and two that were privately owned.
Violence and Harassment: Authorities reportedly harassed, threatened, arrested, and assaulted journalists for defamation.
According to NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists were threatened, harassed, and intimidated by either anonymous individuals or those identifying themselves as members of the security services. Between February 22 and 24, Eric Kokinague, a director of the newspaper Tribune Infos, received more than a dozen anonymous threatening calls from different numbers after he published an article heavily critical of President Deby.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government penalized those who published items counter to government guidelines, sometimes by closing media outlets. Some journalists and publishers practiced self-censorship.
Libel/Slander Laws: Despite a 2010 media law that abolished prison sentences for defamation or insult, authorities arrested and detained persons for defamation. The Chadian Convention for the Defense of Human Rights reported that Betoloum Joseph, a journalist and director of Radio Kar UBA of Moundou, was arrested by police on September 13. They accused him of defaming police on a radio show.
The government did not directly restrict or disrupt access to the internet or directly censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications.
Online activist Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri, known as Mahadine, was detained in September 2016 after having posted several videos on Facebook criticizing the government’s mismanagement of public funds. Charged with undermining the constitutional order, threatening territorial integrity and national security, and collaborating with an insurrection movement, at year’s end he was awaiting trial. At least seven unidentified armed men arrested him and took him to an unofficial detention center, where they held him without access to his family or lawyer, and with neither water nor food. According to his lawyer and a relative, he was beaten and subjected to electric shocks before being transferred to the judicial police in October 2016. Due to Mahadine’s deteriorating health condition, he was eventually transferred to the Moussoro prison, and on March 15, his lawyers requested an immediate transfer to N’Djamena so he could receive appropriate medical care. By year’s end the minister of justice had not responded.
The government blocked access to international data roaming, including Blackberry access, allegedly for security reasons; the government claimed criminals and terrorists from Nigeria and Cameroon were using international roaming to communicate with each other while in Chad. The government also claimed the blockages were due to technical problems, a claim met with widespread skepticism.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 5 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
Although the constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government did not respect this right. The government regularly interfered with opposition protests and civil society gatherings, particularly before and after the April 2016 election. The law requires organizers to notify the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration five days in advance of demonstrations, although groups that provided advance notice did not always receive permission to assemble. Following the 2015 Boko Haram attacks, the ministry often denied permission for large gatherings, including social events such as weddings and funerals. During the April 2016 election campaign, the government allowed ruling party supporters to gather and rally but banned such activities for opposition groups.
On May 27, police interrupted Movement for Citizen Awareness’s (MECI) general assembly, which was taking place at the Alal-Mouna Center in N’Djamena. Police surrounded the venue, and the director of police told the organizers and participants that the meeting was banned. MECI members requested an official document banning the event, but none was presented.
On February 25, 71 students at the University of N’Djamena’s main campus of Toukra were arrested during a protest against the minister of higher education, research and innovation, who was visiting the school along with his Senegalese counterpart.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. While an ordinance requires the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration to provide prior authorization before an association, including a labor union, may be formed, there were no reports the ordinance was enforced. The ordinance also allows for the immediate administrative dissolution of an association and permits authorities to monitor association funds.
On January 6, the minister of territorial administration prohibited all MECI activities, stating that MECI was “unnatural” and “takes place without any legal basis.” He accused MECI of being “an accomplice of some adventurers abroad with subversive objectives.” Five days later Dobian Assingar, the MECI spokesman and honorary president of the Chadian League of Human Rights, was summoned by the Judicial Police of N’Djamena, questioned about MECI activities, and released.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the government imposed limits on these rights.
The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to IDPs, refugees, and other persons of concern.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: There were reports of rape, attempted rape, and sexual and gender-based violence in refugee camps. The perpetrators were either fellow refugees or unknown individuals living near the camps. Authorities only occasionally prosecuted perpetrators of sexual violence. The judicial system did not provide consistent and predictable recourse or legal protection, and traditional legal systems were subject to ethnic variations. To fill the void, UNHCR enlisted the support of a local NGO to support the cases of refugees through the judicial process. The DPHR was unable to provide humanitarian escorts consistently due to lack of resources but was generally effective in providing protection inside refugee camps.
Due to the absence of rebel activity and implementation of education campaigns in camps, there were no reports of recruitment of refugees in refugee camps, including by Central African Republic (CAR) militias.
In-country Movement: Lack of security in the east, primarily due to armed banditry, occasionally hindered the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide services to refugees. In the Lake Chad area, attacks by Boko Haram and concurrent government military operations constrained the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to IDPs.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)
During the year the Lake Chad region experienced additional displacement of more than 4,400 persons. As of November the total number of displaced since 2015 increased to 123,205. The security situation remained fragile but stable and allowed for the return of approximately 51,000 individuals between February and October. Humanitarian access to IDPs improved significantly during the year, and the government actively supported humanitarian operations by international agencies, including legal protection and efforts promoting local integration.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for asylum or refugee status. The government, however, has established a system for the protection of refugees.
In cooperation with UNHCR, the government launched a project to strengthen the civil registration system for the issuance of civil status certificates (birth, marriage, and death certificates) to 50,000 refugees, IDPs, Chadian returnees from the CAR, and persons living around camps and settlements under UNHCR’s mandate.
Access to Basic Services: Although local communities hosted tens of thousands of newly arrived refugees, antirefugee sentiment existed due to competition for local resources, such as wood, water, and grazing land. Refugees also received goods and services not available to the local population, and refugee children at times had better access to education and health services than those in the surrounding local populations. Many humanitarian organizations included host communities in their programming to mitigate this tension.
Durable Solutions: The government pledged to extend citizenship to tens of thousands of returnees, most of whom had resided in the CAR since birth, although only 3 percent of Chadian returnees from the CAR held Chadian nationality documents by year’s end. The government allowed referral for resettlement in foreign countries of refugees from the CAR and Sudan.