a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Human rights groups credibly accused security forces of killing and torturing with impunity.
On May 25, Yaya Awad, arrested for allegedly stealing a motorcycle, died in custody at the 7th police district of N’Djamena after police fatally beat and otherwise injured him during interrogation.
Following an August declaration of a state of emergency, there were reports of security forces beating and killing civilians and confiscating personal property in the provinces of Ouaddai, Sila, and Tibesti.
Interethnic violence resulted in deaths (see section 6).
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the constitution prohibits such practices, there was anecdotal evidence the government continued to employ them.
General Mahamat Abdoulkader Oumar, aka Baba Ladehe, a former Chadian rebel arrested in 2014 by UN forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) and turned over to Chadian authorities, remained at year’s end in Koro-Toro Prison after conviction in December 2018 for armed robbery, illegal possession of weapons, murder, rebellion, and criminal conspiracy, serving an eight year sentence. According to his lawyers, authorities denied him access to medical treatment and his health deteriorated while he waited for years for his trial.
On May 7, Mbaiguedem Richard, a 19-year-old man, died on police premises in the 6th police district of N’Djamena after six days of detention. According to local and international press, Mbaiguedem died as a result of police torture. Mbaiguedem’s death prompted three days of youth protests and clashes between protesters and police.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in the country’s 41 prisons remained harsh and potentially life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.
Physical Conditions: Inmates were vulnerable to diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. Prison overcrowding remained a serious problem. Despite the near doubling of the prison population, no new facilities had been constructed since 2012. Authorities did not separate juveniles from adult male prisoners and sometimes held children with their inmate mothers. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners and did not always separate male and female prisoners. Regional prisons were crumbling, overcrowded, and without adequate protection for women and youth. Prison authorities received insufficient funding to feed inmates.
Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported food, potable water, sanitation, and health services were inadequate. Prison guards, who were not regularly paid, sometimes released prisoners if bribed. Provisions for heating, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate or nonexistent. The law stipulates a doctor must visit each prison three times a week, but authorities did not comply. The few prisons that had doctors lacked medical supplies. Family members of detainees frequently provided them with food, soap, medicine, and other supplies. NGOs reported that government officials forced prisoners to work on their private enterprises as a source of free labor.
No estimate of deaths in prisons or detention centers was available. According to the local NGO Catholic Action for Abolishing Torture in Chad, in August there was no sign of improved prison conditions in several years.
On October 7, prisoners mutinied at Abeche Prison in the east. According to Radio France International, prisoners seized at least one weapon and started a fire, while some escaped. Two prisoners died when the army seized control; it was unclear if soldiers, guards, or police killed them.
Administration: There was no mechanism for prisoners to submit complaints regarding prison conditions to judicial authorities. Although NGOs denounced prison conditions, they did not file a case against the government, and there is no formal complaint process outside of the courts. There were no data available on prisoner access to the requirements of religious observance or practice.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit prisons, and the ICRC conducted such visits during the year. At the maximum-security Koro-Toro Prison, where few families visited due to its distance from N’Djamena, the ICRC visited every four to six weeks.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. The law does not provide for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, or to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. In its Freedom in the World 2019 report, Freedom House stated security forces “routinely ignore” constitutional protections regarding detention. Police and gendarmes also detained individuals for civil matters, contrary to law. There were reports officials held detainees in police cells or in secret detention facilities.
Authorities continued to hold Mathias Tsarsi, the director of Air Inter One, a private airline company, and three other individuals detained in 2017 on suspicion of financing terrorism, money laundering, and forgery-related acts, as well as arms trafficking. In January the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared its concern about the defense’s lack of access to prosecution files, deplorable detention conditions, and allegations of inadequate medical care.
During the year the Ministry of Justice sent eight judicial police officers and magistrates abroad for terrorist investigation and prosecution training.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
Although the law requires a judge to sign and issue arrest warrants before arrests may take place, this did not always occur, according to local media. By law detainees must be charged within 48 hours or released, unless the procurer (investigating magistrate) authorizes an extension of detention for investigative purposes. Nevertheless, authorities often did not make judicial determinations promptly. According to justice representatives in 2018, at least 20 to 25 percent of inmates were in long-term pretrial detention. The law allows for bail and access to counsel, but there were cases in which authorities provided neither. In some cases authorities denied detainees visits from doctors. While the law provides for legal counsel for indigent defendants and prompt access to family members, this rarely occurred, according to justice representatives. Authorities occasionally held detainees incommunicado.
Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested journalists, demonstrators, critics of the government, and other individuals, according to local media.
Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, despite government efforts to address it. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees without charge for years, particularly for felonies allegedly committed in the provinces, because the court system only had the capacity to try criminal cases in the capital, according to a Ministry of Justice official. The length of detention sometimes equaled or exceeded the sentence for conviction of the alleged crime. Lengthy pretrial detention was exacerbated by an overworked judiciary susceptible to corruption.
Unlike in 2018 there was no reported release of Boko Haram fighters; some fighters remained in pretrial detention. According to an antiterrorism judge investigating Boko Haram suspects, very young children remained with their incarcerated mothers, while authorities sheltered some older children in the Dieu Benit Orphanage.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was underfunded, overburdened, corrupt, and subject to executive interference. Members of the judiciary sometimes received death threats or were demoted for not acquiescing to pressure from officials, according to representatives of the bar association. Government personnel, particularly members of the military, often were able to avoid prosecution. Courts were generally weak and nonexistent in some areas. Judicial authorities did not always respect court orders. Local media and civil society organizations reported members of the Judicial Police of Chad, an office within the national police with arrest authority, did not always enforce domestic court orders against military personnel or members of their own ethnic groups.
A judicial oversight commission has the power to investigate judicial decisions and address suspected injustices. The president appointed its members, increasing executive control of the judiciary.
The legal system is based on the French civil code, but the constitution recognizes local customary law in places where it is long established, provided it does not interfere with public order or constitutional provisions for equality of citizens. Courts tended to blend the formal French-derived legal code with traditional practices. Local customs often supersede the law. Residents of rural areas and refugee/internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps often lacked access to formal judicial institutions, and legal reference texts were unavailable outside the capital or in Arabic. In minor civil cases, the population often relied on traditional courts presided over by village chiefs, canton chiefs, or sultans. Penalties in traditional courts sometimes depended on the clan affiliations of the victim and perpetrator. Decisions of traditional courts may be appealed to a formal court.
The constitution provides for a military court system composed of the Military Court and the High Military Court that acts as an appellate court.
The law provides for a presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and to be provided free interpretation; these rights, however, were seldom respected, according to local media. Trials are public. Only criminal trials used juries but not in politically sensitive cases. While defendants have the right to consult an attorney in a timely manner, this did not always occur. By law indigent persons have the right to legal counsel at public expense in all cases, although this seldom occurred, according to legal experts. Human rights groups sometimes provided free counsel to indigent clients. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but the government did not always respect this right, according to lawyers. Defendants have the right to appeal court decisions.
In some areas growing Islamic legal tradition influenced local practice and sometimes impacted legal interpretation. For example, local leaders may apply the Islamic concept of diya, which involves a payment to the family of a crime victim by the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s family. The practice was common in Muslim areas. Non-Muslim groups challenged the practice, asserting it was unconstitutional. On October 4, the government issued an interministerial circular regulating the practice of diya, with the criminal code taking precedence in any conflict with diya practices.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
According to the NGO Movement Citizen Action for the Integral Application of Amnesty in Chad (ACAIAT), in November 2018 there were at least 72 political detainees. The list released by ACAIAT showed some detainees spent seven years and seven months in prison, while the shortest time in prison was one year. All were awaiting trial at year’s end. According to ACAIAT, their detention was politically motivated, and they were eligible for release under criminal law because of their lengthy pretrial detention. In addition to these prisoners, in January the French Press Agency reported the president’s May 2018 general amnesty included 58 political prisoners.
There were no confirmed reports of new political prisoners or detainees during the year.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Lawsuits for human rights violations may be brought before a criminal court, but compensation is addressed by a civil court. Administrative and judicial remedies, such as mediation, are available. The judiciary was not always independent or impartial in civil matters, and some legal professionals were coerced to manipulate legal decisions, according to representatives of the bar association.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Although the constitution provides for the right to privacy and inviolability of the home, the government did not always respect these rights. It was common practice for authorities to enter homes without judicial authorization and seize private property without due process. Security forces routinely stopped citizens to extort money or confiscate goods.
On August 19, the president declared a state of emergency following the resurgence of intercommunal conflicts in the provinces of Ouaddai, Sila, and Tibesti, the fighting claiming more than 100 lives. The Chadian Convention for the Defense of Human Rights (CTDDH) alleged in August that government actions “weighed heavily” on villagers in these areas, including the caning of residents and looting of property.
The CTDDH reported that on September 27, soldiers raided the village of Marchoud and handcuffed approximately 30 villagers, including village chief Abdassadikh Adam Nour, and covered their heads with sacks in an attempt to intimidate them into revealing suspected weapons caches.
A government decree prohibits possession and use of satellite telephones.