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TITLE: DJIBOUTI HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995









                            DJIBOUTI


Despite 1992 constitutional changes that permitted the creation 
of four political parties, President Hassan Gouled Aptidon and 
the People's Rally for Progress (RPP), in power since 
independence in 1977, continued to rule the country.  
Djibouti's two main ethnic groups are the politically 
predominant Issa (the tribe of the President, which is of 
Somali origin) and the Afar (who are also numerous in Ethiopia 
and Eritrea).  The Afar comprise the largest single tribe in 
Djibouti but are outnumbered by the Issa and other Somali clans 
(Issak and Gadabursi) taken together.

On December 26, 1994, the Government signed an agreement that 
recognized the Afar-led Front for the Restoration of Unity and 
Democracy (FRUD) as a legitimate political party.  The 
Government is expected to name a number of FRUD members to key 
posts during 1995.  The FRUD had been engaged in insurgency 
actions against the Government since 1991.  Neither of the two 
officially recognized opposition parties, the Party for 
Democratic Renewal (PRD) or the National Democratic Party 
(PND), hold parliamentary seats.  The PND boycotted the 
December 1992 legislative elections, and the FRUD persuaded 
most Afars not to participate.  As a result, the RPP won all 65 
parliamentary seats and, with the managed reelection of 
President Gouled in May 1993, now holds all significant 
government posts as well. The next legislative elections are 
scheduled for 1997.

Under the Ministry of Defense, the Djiboutian National Armed 
Forces (composed of the army, the national security forces, and 
the gendarmerie) are responsible for internal and external 
security.  There is a small uniformed police force.

Since the FRUD insurgency began in the Afar-dominated north, 
the armed forces have tripled in size, placing an enormous 
burden on the economy.  Even though the insurgency diminished 
greatly during the year--consisting largely of scattered FRUD 
attacks on government troops--the Government moved slowly on 
demobilization, in part because adult male unemployment in the 
capital was already around 60 percent.  In March the Government 
began negotiations with the main faction of the FRUD and signed 
a peace agreement at the end of the year.  Both sides were 
responsible for the death of noncombatants before the fighting 
ended.

Djibouti has no industry; services and commerce provide most of 
the national income based on the large foreign expatriate 
community of 12,000, including 3,800 French soldiers, and the 
state-controlled maritime and commercial activities of the Port 
of Djibouti, the airport, and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti 
railroad.  Only a few mineral deposits exist in the country, 
and the arid soil is unproductive--only 10 percent is pasture 
and 1 percent is forested.  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 in 1992 and a limited multiparty political 
system.  The judiciary is still not independent of the 
executive.  While reports of military abuses of civilians in 
the north ended in March, there were several new reports of 
security force brutality against Afar civilians, including 
extrajudicial killings, both in the north and in putting down 
demonstrations in Djiboutiville.  The Government prosecuted, 
but subsequently released, four political opponents who had 
signed a FRUD declaration calling for continued armed 
struggle.  At the same time, the Government permitted somewhat 
increased freedoms of speech and the press and eased 
restrictions on freedom of movement in the north.  The 
Government permitted the International Committee of the Red 
Cross (ICRC), U.N. representatives, and diplomatic missions 
resident in Djibouti access to prisoners and insurgent areas.  
The traditional practice of female genital mutilation continued 
to be a problem.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known instances of politically motivated 
extrajudicial killings.  However, there were credible reports 
that security forces might have killed civilians in skirmishes 
with FRUD insurgents and used excessive force in quelling 
Afar-led demonstrations.  The most important incidents 
included, in January, the alleged killing by government forces 
of 7 FRUD supporters in retaliation for an earlier ambush on 
government forces.  In March there were unconfirmed reports 
that government forces killed 36 FRUD supporters, including 
civilians during fighting.  It was impossible to verify the 
number of casualties or to determine whether the reported 
victims were civilians or antigovernment insurgents.

In June police used excessive force in a violent clash with 
Afar demonstrators, killing as many as 7 persons and wounding 
15 others, after the authorities moved to destroy makeshift 
homes and a community run school in an Afar squatter 
neighborhood (see Section 2.d.).

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.  An investigation 
launched by the authorities in 1991 to determine culpability in 
an old disappearance case yielded no concrete results.

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

The Constitution states that no one shall be subjected to 
torture or to other inhuman, cruel, degrading, or humiliating 
punishments.  Under the new Penal Code adopted in October, 
torture is punishable by 15 years in prison.  Senior government 
officials pressed for and generally succeeded in bringing about 
an improvement from the situation in 1993, particularly after 
peace discussions began with the FRUD in the spring.  
Nevertheless, especially during the first 3 months of 1994, 
credible reports indicated that security forces abused 
detainees, particularly Afars in the northern region and 
persons suspected of links with the FRUD.  There were credible 
reports of the involvement of government forces in the rape of 
at least one dozen Afar women and girls in the Mabla and Oueima 
regions in March.

Prison conditions are harsh.  There were no reports of abuses 
leading to the deaths of prisoners or rape of female 
prisoners.  The Government permitted representatives of the 
ICRC regular access to all prisoners, whether civilian or 
military.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The 1994 Penal Code stipulates that the State may not detain a 
person beyond 48 hours without an examining magistrate's formal 
charge.  Another 48-hour detention can be accorded to the 
police assuming the prior approval of Djibouti's public 
prosecutor.  Persons charged with political or national 
security offenses can be detained as long as an investigation 
is underway.  Nevertheless, the police often disregarded these 
procedures, normally arresting persons without warrants and 
sometimes detaining persons for lengthy periods (see Section 
1.e.).

As far as known, the Government held no political or security 
detainees at the end of the year.  The security forces captured 
about 30 FRUD combatants during the previous 2 years.  Most of 
these persons gained release during an ICRC-arranged exchange 
at the end of 1993 or early in 1994.  The agreement signed with 
the FRUD in December grants amnesty to all FRUD militants.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The legal system comprises legislation and executive decrees, 
French codified law adopted at independence, Shari'a (Islamic) 
law, and traditions of the native nomadic peoples.  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.  Shari'a law is restricted to civil and 
family matters.

A special State Security Court hears cases of espionage, 
treason, and acts threatening the public order or "the interest 
of the Republic."  This Court tries people accused of political 
crimes and persons judged to be a danger to national security.  
The Court normally meets in closed session but not always; any 
decision may be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Constitution states that the accused is innocent until 
proven guilty, has the right to legal counsel, and the right to 
be examined by a doctor if imprisoned.  Legal counsel is 
available to the indigent in criminal and civil matters.  Court 
cases are heard in public before a presiding judge and two 
accompanying judges.  The latter receive assistance from two 
persons--"assessors"--who are not members of the bench, but who 
possess enough sophistication to comprehend legal proceedings.  
While the Government selects the assessors from the public at 
large, human rights groups have claimed that political and 
ethnic affiliations played a role in determining who was 
selected.  The constitutional provisions for a fair trial are 
generally respected in regular nonpolitical criminal cases.  
Theoretically, imprisonment can legally occur only if an arrest 
warrant is confirmed by a judicial magistrate.  However, in 
practice, security forces arrest people without warrants.

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.  In recent years, a number of legal proceedings 
commanded public attention as not meeting international 
standards of fair trial.  Some members of the State Security 
Court as well as investigating magistrates do not have a legal 
education.  Although State Security Court decisions may be 
appealed to the Supreme Court, lower court sentences are 
usually sustained.

There were no known political prisoners.  The trial of the four 
political opponents, who in January had signed a document which 
called for continued armed struggle against the Government, 
took place in early May.  The defendants were represented by 
counsel and released after the trial at Djibouti's Palais de 
Justice, while supporters of the four demonstrated outside.  
Human rights activist Mohamed Houmed Souleh, a male nurse and 
former parliamentarian, was detained in September 1993 for 
alleging official involvement in a politically motivated 
killing.  After being sentenced to 3 months' imprisonment and a 
fine in October, the Appeals Court ordered a reduction in the 
sentence in January 1994 to 1 month's imprisonment.  The 
Supreme Court affirmed this ruling, and Souleh was permitted to 
regain his freedom.

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

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the family, 
home, correspondence, and communications.  However, the 
Government monitors the communications of regime opponents, 
including opposition party and Afar leaders.  Warrants are 
required for the authorities to conduct searches on private 
property.

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

The conflict between the armed forces and the Afar-led 
insurgents resulted in the excessive use of force and 
violations of humanitarian law concerning treatment of 
civilians.  Most of these abuses occurred early in the year and 
ended by April after the start of negotiations between the 
Government and the FRUD.  After denying the ICRC and foreign 
embassies access to the north during the second half of 1993, 
the Government allowed controlled access to most areas in the 
spring.  Complete access became available after the signing of 
the peace accord in December.

Low-level fighting took place between the security forces and 
insurgents during the first months of the year.  Following a 
period of calm, the Government and the FRUD signed a peace 
agreement in December.  The French continued to provide 
humanitarian assistance to Djibouti.  French troops delivered 
relief supplies or were present in limited numbers in towns 
like Tadjourah.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government owns the electronic media, the most important 
medium for reaching the public, as well as the principal weekly 
newspaper.  The official media do not criticize the President 
or the Government.  However, there are several opposition-run 
weeklies which circulate freely with open criticism of the 
Government.  The Government permitted television coverage of 
the annual congress of one of the two legal opposition parties, 
during which the party leader sharply criticized the 
authorities.

In contrast to 1993, when the authorities interrogated, 
arrested, detained, or tried persons who publicly criticized 
the Government or the President, the Government did not commit 
such abuses in 1994.  The improvement appears to reflect the 
ending of the insurgency and outside pressure.

The Government also did not interfere with foreign broadcasts 
or prevent the distribution of foreign publications.

There are no specific laws or other criminal sanctions that 
threaten academic freedom.  In general, teachers may speak and 
conduct research without restriction as long as they do not 
violate the laws on sedition.  There were several student 
demonstrations in 1994.  The chief cause was the late payment 
of government subsidies.  However, the demonstrations were 
largely a manifestation of despair about the parlous state of 
the economy.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right to free assembly is provided for in the Constitution, 
and the Government generally respected this right.  The 
Ministry of Interior requires permits for peaceful assembly, 
and the Government sometimes used the absence of a permit as 
the legal basis for action against demonstrators.  In 1994 the 
authorities denied a permit to Aden Roblem Awaleh's National 
Democratic Party (PND) on grounds that it would lead to 
violence.  Some opposition leaders effectively practiced 
self-censorship.  Rather than provoke a government crackdown, 
they refrained from organizing popular demonstrations.  
Security forces used excessive force in putting down 
spontaneous demonstrations, such as in an incident in the Afar 
squatter community (see Section 2.d.).

The Constitution sanctions four political parties, but the 
ruling party, the RPP, reserves the right to determine the 
criteria and the circumstances under which the other parties 
may be recognized as legal entities.  The Government recognized 
the PND and the PRD throughout the year, and formally 
recognized the FRUD in December.  Nonpolitical associations 
must register with the Ministry of the Interior in accordance 
with a law enacted at the turn of the century.

     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

The civil war seriously restricted movement between north and 
south until spring, when the insurgency declined, except in one 
or two enclaves.  Djiboutians may travel or emigrate to foreign 
countries without restriction or interference.  In October the 
Government lifted passport restrictions for travel to Israel.

On at least two occasion during the year, the Government razed 
squatter settlements built on public land by Afars displaced by 
the civil conflict and others, including illegal immigrants 
from Somalia and Ethiopia.  In one "clean up" early in the 
year, the Government moved some of the displaced Afar to an 
alternative site 12 kilometers from Djibouti and rounded up 
non-Djiboutians and sent them to refugee camps.  In June the 
Government, in attempting to raze an Afar neighborhood, 
destroyed makeshift homes and a community run school.  Security 
forces used massive force against the subsequent, spontaneous 
protest, killing 7 persons and wounding 15.  The authorities 
claimed that they responded to attacks on police by residents 
with stones, clubs, and knives.

Since 1991 about 9,000 civilians, largely Afar, have fled the 
civil conflict, mainly to Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Despite the 
much improved security situation in 1994, very few Afar 
returned in 1994.

Djibouti hosts almost 120,000 refugees, according to government 
sources, approximately a fifth of the total population.  The 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 
acknowledges only the presence of some 45,000 refugees, largely 
from Somalia and Ethiopia resident in four main refugee camps.  
There are several thousand others living and working illegally 
in Djiboutiville.  The UNHCR figures are based entirely on the 
number of people living in recognized camps and not on the 
larger population pool counted as refugees by the authorities.  
Late in 1994 the Government began in cooperation with UNHCR to 
move illegal residents to refugee camps for repatriation to 
Ethiopia.

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

Although the 1992 Constitution provides for the right of 
citizens to change their government in theory, in practice 
citizens have not yet been allowed to exercise this right.  The 
RPP has carefully controlled the implementation of the new 
four-party system, and with the opposition largely refusing to 
participate, easily ensured total RPP control of the 
legislature in 1992 and President Gouled's reelection to a 
fourth term in 1993.  Many Afars, particularly supporters of 
the FRUD, claim that the Constitution was crafted to ensure the 
President's domination of virtually all aspects of the 
Government, including the legislature and judiciary.

The Government signed a peace agreement with the FRUD in 
December 1994.  The agreement set the stage for the inclusion 
of FRUD members in senior government posts, although this 
anticipated development had not taken place by the end of the 
year.  As negotiations took place during the year, the security 
situation improved markedly.

Although legally entitled to participate in the political 
process, women are largely excluded from senior positions in 
government and in the political parties.  There are no women in 
the Cabinet or in Parliament.  The highest ranking woman in the 
country is Mrs. Khadija Abebe, President of the Court of 
Appeals.  At least three other women serve as judges, while 
several are school administrators.  The director of 
multilateral organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
also is a woman.

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

The Government has been hostile to the formation of local human 
rights groups.  In the case of the Association for the Respect 
for Human Rights and Liberties (ADDHL), in 1993 the Government 
imprisoned its Association leader, Mohamed Houmed Soulleh, 
after he criticized military abuses in the civil conflict, and 
in 1994 continued to deny the ADDHL recognition (see Section 
1.e.).  The ADDHL continued to function during 1994, however, 
with Soulleh as its head.  No other known human rights groups 
exist.  No international human rights group visited the country 
in 1994.

The Government cooperated with some international human rights 
organizations, including the ICRC which in 1993 played a large 
role in the exchange of prisoners in the civil conflict.

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

Women legally possess full civil rights, but in practice, due 
to traditional societal discrimination in education and other 
areas, play a secondary role in public life and do not have the 
same employment opportunities as men.  With only a few women in 
the professions, women are largely confined to wage employment 
in small trade as well as in the clerical and secretarial 
fields.  Customary law discriminates against women in such 
areas as inheritance, divorce, property ownership, and travel.  
The French Legal Code does not, prompting many educated women 
to seek to defend their interests through the Western legal 
framework.

Violence against women does not appear to be a major problem.  
When violence against women does occur, it normally is dealt 
with within the family or clan structure rather than in the 
courts.  The police rarely interfere in domestic violence 
cases, and the media cover only the most extreme cases, such as 
murder.  The Government has been increasingly concerned about 
the growing problem of rape, and included in the new 1994 Penal 
Code stiff sentences for rape ranging up to 20 years in 
prison.  No cases were tried under the new Code before the end 
of the year.

     Children

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.

According to an independent expert, as many as 98 percent of 
Djiboutian females have undergone female genital mutilation 
(FGM), which international health experts widely condemn as 
physically and psychologically damaging.  In Djibouti FGM is 
generally performed on girls between the ages of 7 and 10.  In 
1988 the Djiboutian National Women's Union began an educational 
campaign against FGM, particularly infibulation, the most 
extensive and dangerous form of sexual mutilation.  The 
campaign has had only marginal impact on this pervasive 
custom.  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.  However, the Government has 
not convicted anyone under this statute.

The Government has not specifically addressed other forms of 
child abuse, which are often lightly punished.  For example, 
when a child is raped or otherwise abused, the perpetrator is 
usually fined an amount sufficient to cover medical care given 
to the injured child.  The Government has not as yet used 
provisions of the new Penal Code to deal more stiffly with 
domestic violence and child abuse.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government continued to discriminate against citizens on 
the basis of ethnicity in terms of employment and advancement.  
The Issa (the dominant Somali clan in Djibouti) control the 
ruling party, the civil and security services, and the 
military.  The President's subclan, the Mamassan, is 
particularly strong and wields disproportionate power in the 
affairs of state.

     People with Disabilities

The Government does not mandate accessibility to buildings or 
government services for people with disabilities.  Although 
disabled persons have access to education and public health 
facilities, there is no specific legislation that addresses 
their needs, and there are no laws or regulations which prevent 
job discrimination against disabled people, who find it 
difficult to find employment in an economy where approximately 
60 percent of the able-bodied male adult population is 
underemployed or jobless.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Under the Constitution, workers are free to join unions and to 
strike provided they comply with legally prescribed 
requirements.  In the small wage economy, about 70 percent of 
workers are union members, concentrated in individual private 
or state-owned enterprises.  Previously, the Government exerted 
control over individual unions by making membership mandatory 
in the state-organized labor confederation, the General Union 
of Djiboutian Workers (UGTD).  Since 1992 unions are free to 
join or form other confederations.  While the UGTD is now 
nominally independent of the Government, it still has close 
ties to the RPP.  However, the Democratic Labor Union (UDT) has 
gained increasing union support.

The prescribed legal requirement for initiating a strike calls 
for the representatives of employees who plan to do so to 
contact the Interior Ministry 48 hours in advance.  Most of the 
strikes in 1994 were legal.  In May elementary school teachers 
struck over nonpayment of salaries.  The Education Minister 
attempted to declare the strike illegal and dissolve the 
union.  When secondary school teachers struck in support of 
their colleagues, the Minister backed down.  The Labor Law 
prohibits employer retribution against strikers and is 
generally enforced.

Unions are free to maintain relations and exchanges with labor 
organizations in other countries.  The UGTD is affiliated with 
the Organization of African Trade Union Unity.  The UDT applied 
for affiliation with the International Confederation of Free 
Trade Unions in early 1994.

     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.  Workers 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 
activities.  The Ministry generally enforces the law.

An export processing zones was established in December.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and while this is 
generally observed, 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 for the employment of children is 14 
years, and the law is generally respected.  However, the 
shortage of labor inspectors makes it unlikely that 
investigations are ever carried out, according to union 
sources.  Children are generally not employed under hazardous 
conditions.  Children  may and do work in family-owned 
businesses, such as restaurants and small shops, at all hours. 
Many street beggars are young children whose parents have 
forced them to beg to help support the family.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Only a small minority of the population is engaged in wage 
employment.  The Government sets administratively minimum wage 
rates according to occupational categories, and the Ministry of 
Labor is charged with enforcement.  Last raised in 1982, the 
minimum monthly wage rate is approximately $200 (35,900 
Djiboutian francs) for a 12-hour day of unskilled labor.  Many 
workers also receive housing and transportation allowances.  
Even with these fringe benefits, however, the minimum wage does 
not provide adequate compensation for a worker and family to 
maintain a decent standard of living.

By law, the workweek is 40 hours, often spread over 6 days.  
Workers are guaranteed daily and weekly rest periods and paid 
annual vacations.  The Ministry of Labor is responsible for 
enforcing occupational health and safety standards, wages, and 
work hours.  Because enforcement is ineffective, workers 
sometimes face hazardous working conditions, particularly at 
the port.  Workers rarely protest as they fear replacement by 
others willing to accept the risks.  There are no laws or 
regulations permitting workers to refuse to carry out dangerous 
work assignments without jeopardy to continued employment.
(###)

[end of document]

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