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TITLE:  DJIBOUTI HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Djibouti remained at year's end a de facto one-party State 
ruled, since independence in 1977, by President Hassan Gouled 
Aptidon and the People's Rally for Progress (RPP).  Djibouti is 
composed of two main ethnic groups, the politically predominant 
Issa (the tribe of the President, who is of Somali origin) and 
the Afar (who are also numerous in Ethiopia and Eritrea).  The 
Afars comprise the largest single tribe in Djibouti, but they 
are outnumbered by the Issa and other Somali clans (Issak and 
Gadabursi) taken together.

The Constitution permits four political parties.  Of the two 
opposition parties recognized by the Government, only one, the 
Party for Democratic Renewal (PRD), participated in the 
December 1992 legislative elections.  The National Democratic 
Party (PND) boycotted them on the grounds that President Gouled 
did not consult the opposition on the "democratization" process 
and hence that safeguards did not exist for free and fair 
elections.  The Front for the Restoration of Unity and 
Democracy (FRUD), essentially an ethnic Afar organization, 
persuaded most Afars also to boycott the elections.  
Consequently, the RPP won all 65 parliamentary seats and, with 
the managed reelection of President Gouled in May, holds all 
significant government posts as well.

In late 1991 the FRUD began a large-scale Afar insurgency in 
the northern part of the country; its unmet demands include the 
formation of a transitional government and regional autonomy 
for the Afars in Djibouti.  A government counteroffensive which 
checked the FRUD advance in July resulted in the capture of 
most rebel bases in northern Djibouti.

As a result of the conflict, the Government more than tripled 
the size of the combined Djiboutian national armed forces 
(comprised of the army, the national security forces, and the 
gendarmerie) to nearly 20,000 persons.  This mobilization had a 
devastating effect on Djibouti's economy.  By year's end, the 
total costs of maintaining the armed forces on a war footing 
accounted for about 35 percent of central government budgetary 
expenditures, a percentage so high as to be the principal cause 
of the economic crisis gripping the nation.  The armed forces, 
especially those of Somali origin, committed serious abuses of 
human rights during this period.

Demobilizing the armed forces remains a challenge for the 
Government since adult male unemployment in the capital hovers 
around 60 percent.  Djibouti's soil is unproductive.  
Pastoralists who have not settled in Djiboutiville eke out a 
living from their livestock.  There is virtually no industry.  
The State is the largest employer.  Commerce and services for 
the 12,000 expatriate residents (mostly French, including 3,800 
military personnel) and the operation of the seaport and 
airport account for most of the gross domestic product.  People 
are free to pursue private business interests and to hold 
personal and real property.

Human rights remained restricted despite the introduction of a 
new Constitution and a limited multiparty political system.  
Although freedom of the press has expanded since the Government 
allowed the publication of opposition newspapers and tracts, 
many of the other rights provided for in the Constitution were 
not respected.  The Government orchestrated constitutional 
changes to enhance its political power and dashed the 
opposition's hopes for a peaceful settlement of the civil 
conflict by manipulation of the May presidential elections.  
Its military offensive and the virtual occupation of the north 
by national defense forces essentially of Somali origin, along 
with the attendant abuse of the Afar civilians living there, 
moved Djiboutians perilously close to open ethnic conflict.  
The authorities also continued to detain arbitrarily political 
opponents and to abuse detainees, reportedly including by the 
use of torture.  Violence against women and children continued 
to be a problem; rape was on the rise in 1993. It often goes 

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known instances of deliberately targeted 
political killings, but fighting between the army and the FRUD 
led to many civilian casualties (see Section 1.g.).

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reported disappearances or abductions, yet the 
Government again failed to investigate the disappearance of 12 
Afars on December 18, 1991.  These 12 are presumed dead and are 
listed among the 59 victims of the massacre on that date of 
Afar civilians in Arhiba, Djiboutiville.  Gendarmerie officers 
implicated in the massacre have not been punished.  Nor did the 
Djiboutian army try the soldiers who tortured and killed Hasna 
Mohamed Ali in 1992.  There is reason to believe that 
high-level officials condoned their action after the fact.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution affirms that no one shall be subjected to 
torture, nor to other inhuman, cruel, degrading, or humiliating 
punishments.  However, security forces continued to abuse 
detainees, mainly Afars and criminal suspects.  In this 
connection, the Movement for Solidarity with Civilian Victims 
of the North affirmed that at least 12 Afar women were raped by 
government forces during a September 5 attack on rebel 

In 1993 credible witnesses reported seeing police officials 
beating two British nationals with fists and a broken bottle 
and dragging them by their hair into a police station for 
interrogation following a dispute in a local bar.

President Gouled's Chief of Staff, Ismael Omar Guelleh, heads 
the secret police.  Many of his critics assert that he has 
orchestrated the torture of opponents to Gouled's regime.  
Interrogation techniques have included use of "the swing" by 
which victims are tied by their wrists and ankles to a 
horizontal pole and beaten all over.  In general, the 
Government has taken no action to pursue or prosecute persons 
accused of torture.

In the overcrowded central prison, former prime minister Ali 
Aref Bourhan and his fellow inmates staged a brief hunger 
strike in June to protest the curtailment of family visits.  
Subsequently, family visits resumed, but Ali Aref's relatives 
maintained that he had no access to medical care for chronic 
skin and prostate ailments.

The Government permits representatives of the International 
Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) to have regular access to 
all prisoners whether civilian or military.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Ministry of Interior regularly disregards the criminal 
procedures which stipulate that the State may not detain a 
person beyond 48 hours without an examining magistrate's formal 
charge.  In particular, people who express views critical of 
the Government and the President are often subjected to 
arbitrary arrest and detention.  The national police briefly 
arrested Ibrahim Warsama Myreh, "Douneh", a nephew of the 
President and a member of the ruling party, after he criticized 
government-sanctioned fraud during the May 7 presidential 
elections.  On September 15, police detained Mohamed Houmed 
Souleh, the President of the Djiboutian Association for the 
Respect of Human Rights and Liberties; he was subsequently 
released.  Another victim of arbitrary detention and 
interrogation was Dabale Ahmed Kassim, editor of the weekly 
paper, The Combat, who was accused of offending institutions of 
the State, a charge which government authorities typically use 
to keep political opponents in line.

With the ICRC acting as intermediary in the exchange, and with 
the cooperation of the Ethiopian Government, the Djibouti 
Government and the FRUD exchanged detainees on December 1:  The 
Government released 68 detainees, and the FRUD released 26 
members of the armed forces.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The legal system comprises legislation and executive decrees, 
French codified law adopted at independence, Shari'a (Islamic 
law), traditions of the native nomadic peoples, and a 
Constitution modeled on the Constitution of the Fifth French 
Republic.  Crimes committed in urban centers are dealt with in 
accordance with French-inspired law and judicial practice in 
the regular courts.  Civil actions may be brought in these 
courts or in the traditional courts.

The Constitution states that all persons have the right to 
life, liberty, and the security and integrity of the person.  
It also declares that the accused is innocent until proven 
guilty, has the right to legal counsel, and has the right to be 
examined by a doctor if imprisoned.  Theoretically, 
imprisonment can occur only if an arrest decree is confirmed by 
a judicial magistrate.  In practice, security forces arrest 
people without warrants, and constitutional provisions for a 
fair trial are often not respected.

The judiciary is not independent of the executive.  The State 
Security Court tries people accused of political crimes and 
persons judged by the President to be a danger to national 
security.  Some members of the State Security Court as well as 
investigating magistrates do not have a legal education.  
Political trials, such as the trial of Ali Aref Bourhan in July 
1992, may be appealed to the Supreme Court, but the judgments 
of the lower courts are usually sustained.  On June 20, the 
Supreme Court rejected Ali Aref's appeal of the State Security 
Court's guilty verdict.

A general amnesty for 213 criminals in September did not apply 
to Ali Aref Bourhan, Mohamed Houmed Souleh, and other detainees 
considered political prisoners by human rights monitors.  
However, a December 15 presidential pardon released Ali Aref 
and 13 associates.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability of the 
family, home, correspondence, and communications, telephone 
service to opponents of the regime, including opposition party 
and Afar leaders, is believed to be tapped by the security 

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

The conflict between the armed forces and the Afar-led 
insurgency resulted in excessive use of force and violations of 
humanitarian law concerning the treatment of civilians.

On September 5, FRUD combatants ambushed an army convoy 15 
kilometers outside Assa Gueyla, killing four soldiers and 
wounding seven.  The rebels kidnaped and raped a woman member 
of the convoy.  Afar leaders asserted that the convoy had been 
sent to resupply government troops.  Retaliation by government 
forces left a reported 51 dead in the vicinity of Randa and 
Tadjoura, according to FRUD and other Afar sources.  A northern 
traditional leader confirmed 21 civilian dead near Tadjoura 
alone.  Despite credible reports to the contrary, the 
Government denied that its security forces perpetrated a 
massacre of civilians.

The Djiboutian Association for the Respect of Human Rights and 
Liberties, an organization whose credibility remains to be 
established, claimed that innocent Afar civilians were often 
killed indiscriminately by government military and paramilitary 
forces in northern Djibouti.  In one such instance in July, 
soldiers reportedly killed a father and son, Mola Omar and 
Mohamed Mola, in the vicinity of the town of Lahassa.

During the first 6 months of 1993, the ICRC maintained medical 
clinics at some 10 locations in the north, including the towns 
of Assa Gueyla and Dorra.  After the government offensive of 
July, independent organizations such as the ICRC and Doctors 
Without Borders no longer had access to northern Djibouti.  For 
this reason, FRUD reports of atrocities and government reports 
of ambushes have not been independently confirmed.  The 
Government continues to deny access to the north to embassies, 
international organizations, and other observers.  All these 
organizations continue to receive reports of human rights 
violations which cumulatively strengthen the circumstantial 
case against the Government.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government continued to exercise control of the national 
media.  During the Presidential campaign, which was confined to 
the 4 to 6 weeks preceding the May 7 elections, it permitted 
political debate and made available equal television and radio 
time to the five presidential candidates to express their 
views.  However, the official media devoted disproportionate 
coverage to the activities of the ruling party.

The Government employed economic coercion to stifle freedom of 
speech, firing public sector employees who supported opposition 
candidates or unwelcome political ideas.  Since President 
Gouled's reelection, persons who have publicly expressed views 
critical of the Government or caused offense to the President 
have been interrogated, arrested, or detained--occasionally for 
a long period--before being tried for defamation, as in the 
case of Mohamed Houmed Souleh (see Section 1.d.).

The Government Information Secretariat censors the official 
press, which presents the views of the ruling party.  
Djibouti's radio and television stations and one newspaper, La 
Nation, a French-language weekly, are government owned and 
operated.  The official media do not criticize the Government.  
The newspapers of the two legal opposition parties circulate 
freely and openly criticize the Government.

The Government neither interferes with foreign broadcasts nor 
prevents the distribution of foreign publications or detains 
persons in possession of such publications.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government effectively bans political protest by selective 
enforcement of public assembly laws, in spite of the freedom of 
assembly provisions of the new Constitution.  Permits are 
required for peaceful assembly from the Ministry of Interior.  
The PRD and the PND have applied for and been granted such 
permits for rallies in the past.

The Government permitted independent presidential candidates 
and the two authorized political parties to hold rallies before 
the election, but let it be known that public protest of the 
results would not be tolerated.  As the Government had harshly 
repressed an opposition political rally in the aftermath of the 
legislative elections of December 18, 1992, the PND and the 
PRD, fearing further government repression, refrained from 
demonstrating against the Government's manipulation of the 
election process.

The Constitution sanctions four political parties.  The ruling 
party, the RPP, reserved for itself the right to determine the 
criteria and the circumstances under which the other three 
parties could be recognized as legal entities.  At year's end, 
the Government had recognized just two opposition parties, the 
PND and the PRD.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Islam is the state religion.  Virtually the entire population 
is Sunni Muslim.  The Government imposes no sanctions on those 
who choose to ignore Islamic teachings on such matters as diet, 
alcoholic consumption, and religious fasting.

The foreign community supports Roman Catholic, French 
Protestant, Greek Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox churches.  
Foreign clergy and missionaries may perform charitable works 
but proselytizing, while not illegal, is discouraged.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Travel within Djibouti has been disrupted by civil war so 
movement between the north and south is severely restricted.  
In principle, Djiboutians may travel or emigrate to foreign 
countries,without restriction or interference, except to Israel.

In June the Government refused to issue travel documents to the 
President of the Association for the Respect of Human Rights 
and Liberties, Mohamed Houmed Souleh, and to Samira Ali Hugo, 
wife of FRUD spokesman Abbo Abbatte, who had hoped to travel to 
the Vienna International Conference on Human Rights.

Djibouti hosts almost 100,000 refugees, according to government 
sources.  This would be approximately a fifth of the total 
population.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
(UNHCR) acknowledges the presence of some 45,000 refugees, a 
more credible figure.  Most refugees come from Somalia although 
some are from Ethiopia.  About 20,000 are in four refugee 
camps.  Most of the other refugees live in Djiboutiville, where 
they have no refugee status. 

Some 4,000 Afar civilians fleeing civil conflict sought refuge 
in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  As many as 9,000 may have fled to 
those countries since the end of 1991.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The right of citizens to change their government, while 
theoretically possible, remains unrealizable.  The Government 
permits multiparty democracy as long as it poses no credible 
threat to it, i.e., as long as the elite which has held power 
since independence in 1977 can retain it.  The Constitution, 
voted into law on September 4, 1992, lays down fundamental 
rights, almost all of which are circumscribed or controlled in 
their implementation by the ruling regime.

President Gouled was reelected to a fourth term on May 7 in a 
tightly controlled multiparty presidential election.  He was 
endorsed by about 60 percent of the 50 percent of the 
registered voters who went to the polls.  The President secured 
only 53 percent of the votes in the capital where, by all 
accounts, the balloting was fair, but he claimed more than 80 
percent of the votes in the rebellious Afar-inhabited northern 
districts where international observers detected widespread 
fraud.  The Afars, who compose at least one-third of the 
population, heeded admonitions from the FRUD to boycott the 
election.  President Gouled's four electoral opponents, all 
fellow Issas, issued a joint communique characterizing the 
election as a "massive fraud," and the FRUD dismissed the 
exercise as a sham.

The Afars, a large segment of the body politic, boycotted all 
three occasions when the Djiboutians were called upon to vote.  
They also boycotted the constitutional referendum in September 
1992, on the grounds that it was a creation of President 
Gouled's regime and not a text upon which the disaffected 
members of the community were consulted.  They claimed the 
Constitution was tailored in such a way as to ensure the 
President's domination of virtually all aspects of the 
government--including the legislature and judiciary.  Having 
rejected the Constitution, the Afars boycotted the subsequent 
elections for fear of legitimizing the process initiated by the 
President and his supporters.

Women are poorly represented in government and in the political 
process.  There are no women in the Cabinet or in Parliament.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government was disdainful of a domestic human rights 
group.  It refused to recognize the Association for the Respect 
of Human Rights and Liberties and imprisoned its leader, who 
had criticized government suppression in the north.  Government 
officials viewed the human rights Association as a political 
body and treated it as an opposition group.

The Government cooperated with some international and 
nongovernmental organizations, notably the ICRC, which had 
access to the central prison and interceded on behalf of 
detainees in the conflict between the Government and the FRUD.  
On December 1, the ICRC arranged the exchange of 68 FRUD 
detainees held by the Government for 26 held by the FRUD in 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of 
language, race, sex, or religion, but discrimination against 
women and ethnic minorities is widespread. 


Women legally possess full civil rights.  They traditionally 
play a secondary role in public life and do not have the same 
professional opportunities as men.  Women are active in small 
trade as well as in the clerical and secretarial fields.  There 
are only a few women in the professions (civil service, 
judiciary, teaching and medicine) and the security services.

According to medical personnel, all forms of violence against 
women increased in 1993.  The Government has not specifically 
addressed violence against women or children.  Very few 
perpetrators of crimes against women, including rape, are 
punished.  When punished, they are often pardoned or serve 
short sentences.  Most domestic and community violence is 
considered a family or clan affair.  Occurrences of gang rape 
indicate that violence against women is no longer controllable 
by traditional authorities.


Although there are a few charitable organizations working with 
children, the Government devotes virtually no public resources 
to the advancement of children's rights and welfare.

In 1988 the Djiboutian National Women's Union began an 
educational campaign against female genital mutilation, 
particularly infibulation, the most extensive and dangerous 
form of sexual mutilation in Djibouti, which is generally 
performed on girls between the ages of 7 and 10.  The campaign 
has had only marginal impact on this pervasive custom, which is 
widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to 
physical and mental health.  According to an independent 
expert, as many as 90 percent of Djiboutian females have 
undergone this operation.  Judicial reforms enacted in 1991 
stipulate that anyone found guilty of genital mutilation of 
young girls can face a heavy fine and 5 years in prison.  No 
one has been convicted under this statute.

The Government has not specifically addressed other forms of 
child abuse which are often lightly punished.  When a child is 
raped or otherwise abused, the perpetrator is usually fined an 
amount sufficient to cover medical care given to the injured 

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government continued with its discriminatory ethnic 
policy.  Because of the President's policy of assigning key 
positions of authority to members of his tribal group, in 
particular to powerful advisers in his Cabinet, the Issa (the 
dominant Somali clan in Djibouti) control the ruling RPP, the 
civil service, and the military.  The President's subclan, the 
Mammasane, is particularly strong and wields disproportionate 
power in the affairs of state.

     People with Disabilities

There is no specific legislation concerning the handicapped.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The organized labor movement is in its infancy.  Fewer than 20 
percent of workers in the very small wage economy are union 
members.  Many unions represent employees of individual private 
or state-owned enterprises.  Under the Constitution, workers 
are free to join unions and to strike provided they comply with 
legally prescribed requirements.  Previously, the Government 
exerted control over individual unions through the state 
organized labor confederation, the General Union of Djiboutian 
Workers (UGTD).  The UGTD has been in eclipse since the 
establishment of the independently organized Democratic Labor 
Union (UDT) in 1992.

In May secondary school teachers successfully organized an 
independent labor union, SYNESED.  After its members struck and 
refused to grade end-of-year exams, the union was recognized by 
the Government.

Unions are free to maintain relations and exchanges with labor 
organizations in other countries.  The UGTD is affiliated with 
the pan-African trade union body, the Organization of African 
Trade Union Unity. 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Although labor has the right to organize and bargain 
collectively, collective bargaining rarely occurs.  Relations 
between employers and workers are informal and paternalistic.  
Wages are generally established unilaterally by employers on 
the basis of Ministry of Labor Guidelines.  When disputes about 
wages or health and safety issues arise, the Ministry of Labor 
encourages direct, ad hoc resolution by labor representatives 
and employers.  Employees or employers may request formal 
administrative hearings before the Ministry of Labor's 
Inspection Service.  The law prohibits antiunion discrimination 
against employees, and employers guilty of such discrimination 
are legally required to reinstate workers fired for union 

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  This prohibition 
is generally observed, but security forces sometimes compel 
illegal immigrants to work for them in lieu of deportation.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age, 14 years, is generally respected.  The 
paucity of labor inspectors makes it unlikely that 
investigations are ever carried out, according to union 
sources.  Children may and do work in family owned businesses, 
such as restaurants and small shops, at all hours.  Children 
are generally not employed under hazardous conditions.  Many of 
the beggars in the streets are young children whose parents 
have forced them to beg for a living.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Only a tiny minority of the population is gainfully employed.  
Minimum wage rates are specified by government regulation, 
according to occupational categories, and are enforced by the 
Ministry of Labor.  Last raised in 1980, the minimum monthly 
wage rate of approximately $200 for a 12-hour day of unskilled 
labor does not provide adequate compensation for a worker and 
his family to maintain a decent standard of living.  Many 
workers receive housing and transportation allowances.

By law the workweek is 40 hours, often spread over 6 days.  
Overtime pay and mandatory seniority bonuses are provided.  
Workers are guaranteed daily and weekly rest periods and paid 
annual vacations.  The Ministry of Labor is responsible for 
occupational health and safety standards, wages, and work 
hours.  Because enforcement is ineffective, workers face 
hazardous working conditions, particularly at the port.  
Workers rarely protest as they fear replacement by others 
willing to accept the risks.

[end of document]


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