Wednesday, June 02, 2021

“There have been regular violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Chad for several months. Everyone must be able to safely exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Chadian and international laws,” said Abdoulaye Diarra

The announcement of an investigation into the use of firearms by security forces during the last two months of protests in Chad must lead to prosecutions through fair trials of those suspected of unlawful killings, Amnesty International said today.

Based on testimonies from victims, their close relatives, and human rights associations, Amnesty International can confirm that at least 16 people were killed in the capital N'Djamena and the southern town of Moundou during protests which took place between 27 April and 19 May. Dozens of others were injured and at least 700 were arrested, some of whom were released shortly after the protests which were organized by the Wakit Tama coalition.

While freedom of peaceful assembly may be subject to limitations under specific conditions, Amnesty International considers the authorities’ reasons for banning these demonstrations, namely the possible disturbance of public order, disproportionate.

“We spoke to protestors, some of whom had been surrounded by three groups of defense and security forces constituted of gendarmes and police officers. One of them said it was a police officer who shot at him, causing injuries to his left knee," said Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher.

‘’Firearms, which are not a law enforcement tool, should only be used as a last resort, in the face of imminent risk of death or serious injury. Chadian authorities must fully respect the guidelines of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on the maintenance of order by law enforcement officials.’’

‘’Their announcement of an investigation into the killings and injuries must be independent and impartial and lead to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.”

Amnesty International spoke to victims and witnesses who described the use of lethal force by the defense and security forces. For example, during the 8 May protest in N’Djamena, a police officer shot at protesters and killed one of them, according to an eyewitness.

“There was a group of protesters who agreed to gather at the 6th Arrondissement District in N’Djamena. The place was already occupied by the security forces who started firing tear gas at protesters, a scene which lasted several minutes. That was when a young man on his motorbike was hit by a bullet,” the eyewitness told Amnesty International.

On 19 May, transition authorities announced that the police officer who killed the young protester on his motorbike had been sacked but they did not confirm whether he was subject to legal proceedings.

The 27 April protest in N’Djamena was also the scene of armed police intervention on board pick-up vehicles patrolling the streets. Amnesty International has collected several testimonies from relatives of victims killed during that day’s protest.

The victims were shot and later died in various health facilities. One of the victims was shot three times, twice to the chest. According to witnesses, security forces and plainclothes officers were shooting from an unregistered car with tinted windows.

 A victim who was injured told Amnesty International:

"... On 27 April, a police officer fired two warning shots in the air, then another one picked up his gun, knelt and pointed it at me. I thought it was tear gas canisters ... I later realized my left knee was bleeding. ... I understood that I was shot. I was then taken to the hospital where I was wanted by the police. By the end of the evening, they went to my house, entered the living room, and brutalised my family. They came back early the following morning, around 2 AM to threaten me. "

In the N’Djamena 9th District, other witnesses told Amnesty International they have seen on 27 April armed men in vehicles with tinted windows shooting at the crowd without any reaction from soldiers and police officers who were present at the scene. Three people were injured on 27 April and one of them, a young man of 19, died from his injuries after he was brought to the Walia University Hospital Center (UHC).

“He was 19-years-old. He was shot three times, twice in the left side and once to the thigh. He was evacuated with others injured to the UHC where he died just as we were entering the operating room,” a witness said.

While protests organized by either civil society organizations or opposition parties in Chad have systematically been banned since April, those supporting the Transitional Military Committee (CMT) can freely protest.

A civil society member has confirmed it to Amnesty International:

"Protests organized since April were banned and repressed by the security forces while the one organized in support to the CMT was authorized on 12 May."

This approach proves that the bans on demonstrations during the same period were disproportionate and in violation of international law.

In a statement released on 7 May, the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration said peaceful protests were only allowed if they met criteria set out by the law.

The Minister of Communication justified the ban on the 8 May protest in N’Djamena by its organizers’ refusal to indicate their itinerary and to set up internal security.

“There have been regular violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Chad for several months. Everyone must be able to safely exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Chadian and international laws,” said Abdoulaye Diarra.