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People demonstrating in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, on May 14, 2022 over France’s military presence in the country and perceived support for the transitional government. © 2022 Private

(New York) – The authorities in Chad are holding several members of civil society organizations in pretrial detention following protests on May 14, 2022, to press for a peaceful transition to civilian rule. Some of the protests turned violent, leading the authorities to bring charges against the organizers.

The protests were organized in the capital, N’Djamena, and other cities across the country by Chadian civil society organizations, united under the coalition Wakit Tamma (The time has come, in Chadian Arabic). The protesters said they were seeking “a transition to civilian rule” and denouncing France's perceived support for the transitional military authorities.

“Chadian authorities should immediately release the six Wakit Tamma members and supporters and drop all charges against them,” said Samira Daoud, Regional Director at Amnesty International. “Rather than blame the demonstration’s organizers, the authorities should remember that they are responsible to ensure safety of people and public order during demonstrations, using force in a manner compliant with the principles of use of force.”

Security Minister Idriss Dokony Adiker said that the demonstrations had turned violent in some places with at least seven gas stations looted. Between May 14 and 17, the authorities placed six Wakit Tamma members and supporters in “preventive detention” at Klessoum prison in N’Djamena. According to their lawyers, on May 20, 2022, the six were illegally transferred to Moussoro prison, 300 km from N’djamena. The public prosecutor announced that the six are facing prosecution for “gathering to cause public disturbance, harm to property, and physical assault.” Their trial has been scheduled to begin on June 6.

The people detained are Gounoung Vaima Ganfare, secretary general of Chad’s Trade Unions (Union des syndicats du Tchad, UST); Koudé Mbaïnaïssem, a lawyer at the Chad Bar Association; Hissène Massar Hissène, President of the Group of civil society executives (Rassemblement des cadres de la société civile); Allamine Adoudou, former ambassador in Egypt; Youssouf Korom, secretary general of the Union of Chadian supplier traders (Syndicat des commerçants fournisseurs tchadiens); and Max Loalngar, a lawyer, spokesperson for Wakit Tamma and a former president of a prominent human rights organization called the Chadian Human Rights League (Ligue Tchadienne de droits de l’homme).

The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by national, regional, and international laws, notably Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights which Chad ratified in 1986.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights’ Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa provide that the State is responsible for security and safety during demonstrations and that organizers of a peaceful demonstration cannot be held responsible for acts committed by third parties during the demonstration.

These latest arrests illustrate the difficulty civil society and opposition groups face in exercising the right to peaceful assembly in Chad, the organizations said. Since military authorities took over in April 2021 they have repeatedly cracked down on opposition and dissenting voices, including by violently dispersing peaceful demonstrations.

In April and May 2021, security forces killed at least 16 people during opposition-led demonstrations in N'Djamena and across the country. On October 2, anti-riot police and gendarmes fired teargas and rubber bullets at the protesters gathered for a Wakit Tamma led demonstration, injuring up to 45 people. No member of the security forces implicated in rights violations has been held accountable.

On May 7, 2021, Souleyman Abakar Adam, the public security and immigration minister, issued a news release disseminating regulations on the right to peaceful assembly in Chad. The release states that organizers of a demonstration must request permission from the authorities five days in advance and specify an itinerary. Members of civil society organizations have repeatedly told both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the authorities often issue the permits only the day before the demonstration.

“This restriction on freedom of assembly is contrary to international law, which specifies that people planning peaceful demonstrations only need to notify the authorities, not to get permission,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Central Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should allow for peaceful protests as part of the democratic process and ensure accountability when security forces use excessive force during demonstrations.”

On April 20, 2021, a transitional military council seized power in Chad following the death of President Idriss Deby. The council is headed by General Mahamat Idriss Deby, the former president’s son. A transition charter was adopted on April 21, 2021, setting a limit of 18 months for the transition, renewable once.

New demonstrations planned by Wakit Tamma for May 28, 2022, with the same demands of that organized on May 14 for were prohibited by the Minister of Security and Immigration on May 27, 2022, for reasons of public order.

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