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Chadian Commission President Removed at Critical Moment

Mahamat Nour Ahmat Ibédou Ensured Human Rights Body’s Independence

Chadian civil society leader Mahamat Nour Ibédou (center) attends a press conference in N'Djamena, Chad, February 5, 2018. © 2018 AFP via Getty Images

Last week, a prominent rights defender, Mahamat Nour Ahmat Ibédou, was removed from his post as president of the National Human Rights Commission. His departure is a blow for a country facing presidential elections.

On October 20, 2022, security forces in Chad fired live ammunition at protesters, killing and injuring scores. Hundreds of men and boys were arrested, and many were taken to Koro Toro, a high security prison 600 kilometers away from N’Djamena, the country’s capital. The transitional government effectively ignored the abuses, casting the protestors as insurrectionists. Only one government body, the National Human Rights Commission (Commission nationale des droits de l'homme, CNDH), had the courage to publish a truthful accounting of that day.

In its report released in February 2023, it said that 128 people were killed and 518 injured on the day many people have branded jeudi noir (black Thursday). The commission found that security forces “systematically violated several fundamental human rights … [using] disproportionated means” to quell the protests. The commission asked several questions to the government, including why no judicial investigations had been opened into human rights violations. It also made recommendations to the transitional military authorities, including prosecuting those responsible for violations.

Soon after the report’s publication the Commission’s president, Ibédou, came under pressure. Before joining the CNDH, he had been the secretary general of the Chadian Convention for the Defence of Human Rights (Convention Tchadienne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme, CTDDH), and had been persecuted by the governments of both Hissène Habré and Idriss Déby Itno, before his death in 2021. He was arrested several times under Idriss Déby Itno for his work in the civil society movement. Despite intimidation and harassment, he is known throughout the country for putting human rights before politics and pushing for accountability.

Last week, Ibédou was shuffled out of the CNDH, in a move that, while sanctioned by the country’s Supreme Court, insiders have told me they view as politically motivated. He was removed as the country’s presidential elections, scheduled for October, have been pushed up to May of this year.

Ibédou’s removal is a loss for Chad. Governments who profess to support human rights should be defending an independent CNDH, with independent people like Ibédou at its helm. Otherwise, there may soon be no organizations strong enough to defend human rights and uphold the rule of law.

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