HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF CHAD
18 March 2014
The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Chad on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Presenting the report, Ibrahim Koulamallah, Minister for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, said Chad had created in 2011 an inter-ministerial committee for monitoring human rights-related international instruments, and would soon adopt a national human rights action plan. Chad was committed to combat all forms of discrimination, including female genital mutilation, domestic and gender-based violence and early and forced marriage. There was a de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The Minister outlined legislative measures to improve detention conditions and combat arbitrary detention, the use of corporal punishment and trafficking in persons. Chad was also committed to protecting the rights of refugees and displaced persons, the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial.
Committee Experts commended the delegation for progress had been made in the implantation of the Covenant and, but noted a dichotomy between international standards in the constitution and domestic laws in practice. Concerns were expressed that discrimination was not prohibited by law, at the lack of prosecutions of perpetrators of female genital mutilation, which was a form of torture, and corporal punishment. Experts expressed deep concern about the arbitrary detention of a young girl, Khadija Ousmane Mahamat for 11 years. The de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty was welcomed but Experts were concerned about reports that the death penalty continued to be given, and also that reforms to the penal code did not seek to abolish the death penalty. Experts also inquired on efforts made to combat trafficking in persons, prevent the recruitment of child soldiers and to improve the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons.
In concluding remarks, Ibrahim Koulamallah said that despite the past events, Chad was doing its utmost to implement its international human rights obligations and ensure the Committee’s recommendations were duly taken into consideration.
Sir Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the Committee, welcomed positive aspects, including on the death penalty but highlighted the Committee’s deep concerns regarding impunity and the inconceivable arbitrariness of the imprisonment of Khadija Ousmane Mahamat.
The Delegation of Chad included representatives of the Ministry for Human Rights and the Promotion of Fundamental Freedoms; the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and African Integration; the Ministry of Justice; the Minister for Social Action, National Solidarity and Family and the Permanent Mission of Chad to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public this afternoon at 3.00 p.m. to discuss the second periodic report of Nepal (CCPR/C/NPL/2).
The second report of Chad can be read via the link: CCPR/C/TCD/2.
Presentation of the Report
IBRAHIM KOULAMALLAH, Minister for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, spoke about recent developments, starting with Chad’s election as a member of the United Nations Security Council, which would be an opportunity for it to promote peace, including through its presence in Mali and the Central African Republic. In 2013 the National Committee for Political Dialogue was established to set up a permanent dialogue between the opposition and the party in power. Pluralistic and free elections were guaranteed under the constitution, while laws and other measures had been adopted to encourage pluralism. In 2011 an inter-ministerial committee for monitoring human rights-related international instruments was set up to ensure respect for Chad’s international human rights obligations, including implementation of recommendations made by the Human Rights Committee following the consideration of its initial report. The right of victims of human rights violations to an effective remedy was established in law. In 2010 a National Forum on Human Rights was held which led to a draft National Action Plan on Human Rights that would soon be adopted with the following priorities: strengthening of the legal framework, human rights education, promotion and protection of civil and political rights, and of economic, social and cultural rights, promotion of a culture of tolerance, human rights and peace, and national and international cooperation.
Chad was committed to combating all forms of discrimination, as enshrined in the constitution, including discrimination against women. Although no law clearly prohibited discrimination, the domestic courts did not hesitate to address such cases. The government had adopted laws and was undertaking sensitization campaigns against female genital mutilation, domestic and gender violence as well as forced and early marriage. Although legislation did not provide for quotas on the number of women in the public sphere, it ensured that all efforts were made to empower women. Campaigns were also in place to promote birth registration. Legislative measures had been adopted to improve detention conditions, combat arbitrary detention, corporal punishment and trafficking in persons. The maximum period of pre-trial detention was 48 hours, or 72 hours with the authorization of the General Prosecutor. Preventive detention was possible for a maximum length of six months for minor offenses and of one year for serious crimes. Reform of the criminal code took into consideration fundamental guarantees for detainees, including access to healthcare, a lawyer and family visits. A law on the status of judges had been amended in order to fight corruption of judges.
A de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty had been in place for over 10 years. Allegations of extrajudicial executions were being were being investigated but so far had failed to identify those responsible. There was a definition of torture in line with international standards in the penal code, and the crime carried a 10 year penalty of imprisonment, although there were no specific mechanisms addressing complaints of torture perpetrated by defence or security forces, as they were subjected to the same legal system than civilians. Following the violent events of 2008 a Commission of Inquiry published a report with conclusions, after which the Government filed a complaint of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by rebels, but it did not lead to a conviction. Some victims of the 2008 events received reparations of FCFA 700,000,000 (Central African franc). In 2013, Hissein Habré was prosecuted in Senegal, in accordance with the African Union’s position. Some of his accomplices were currently being detained in Chad, and investigations into their past crimes were still being carried out.
Since 2003, Chad had welcomed a large number of refuges and was doing its best to respect their rights. Chad had ratified the Kampala Convention on internally displaced persons and established an Inter-Ministerial Committee to combat trafficking in persons, which was currently drafting an action plan. An action plan to prevent children being engaged in armed groups in Chad was launched in 2011 with assistance from the United Nations. Current reform efforts were addressing imprisonment for debt, freedom of association, the protection of minors and the right to a fair trial. The right to freedom of expression was protected in Chad, and several private and public press organizations freely promoted human rights. Journalists were protected against threats by law. Human rights defenders and trade unionists were never harassed or intimidated in the exercise of their functions.
Questions from the Experts
Experts noted that progress had been made in the implantation of the Covenant. Chad’s constitution explicitly referred to international and regional human rights instruments, and protected ethnic minorities. The constitution also guaranteed that international treaties took precedent over national law, under the condition of reciprocity. There seemed however to be a dichotomy between international standards referred to in the constitution and domestic laws and practice. The jurisprudence by the constitutional court seemed also to be in line with the rights protected in the constitution. Experts asked what was being done to disseminate information on the Covenant, and what was being done to mainstream the Covenant into the legal sphere of Chad.
What was the mandate of the National Human Rights Commission of Chad? Was it in line with the Paris Principles, and had it been allocated the necessary funds to function effectively and independently? Concerns had been raised in relation to its autonomy. How were the recommendations made in 2009 by the Committee being implemented and why was the reform process going so slowly? Experts were also concerned regarding the fact that the national human rights plan was still awaiting adoption, although it had been drafted in 2012. Experts asked why civil society human rights organizations decided to boycott the National Human Rights Forum in 2010.
The principle of non-discrimination was not defined in the legislative system, Experts regretted, although it was protected in the constitution. They asked on what legal grounds courts issued decisions on cases of discrimination, and whether the adoption of anti-discrimination laws would make things easier.
Disparities between the rights enshrined in the Covenant and customary law were noted, and the delegation was asked about obstacles to the reform of the family code, particularly with regard to polygamy. In certain cases customary law was discriminatory, in particular against women.
Deep concern was expressed that cases of violence against women, domestic violence and incest were often unreported and not investigated. Although important, awareness-raising activities were not enough to end the practice of female genital mutilation. States had to effectively punish and prosecute those who perpetrated the practice, which amounted to an act of torture.
Pre-trial detention could reportedly be prolonged beyond the legal limit, Experts noted. Experts raised concerns about the case of a 13 year-old girl being held on provisional detention. How effective were the supervisory committees for prison facilities and did they have resources to ensure proper inspection of detention facilities? Were families of detainees able to visit them?
Experts were concerned that there was no independent mechanism to prosecute cases of torture, which could derive into impunity for the perpetrators. Experts asked for details on complaints filed by detainees on allegations of mistreatments by prison personnel. Experts were also deeply concerned that the investigation on allegations of extrajudicial executions had not led to any convictions. The problem of corporal punishment continued to exist, experts regretted, particularly in Islamic schools. The legal prohibition of corporal punishment seemed inefficient. Was there any legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in the household?
With regards to the 2008 events, Committee Members welcomed that some victims had received compensation from the State, and asked how many victims were still to receive reparation.
Chad’s had a de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty was welcomed but the Committee was still concerned that the draft revision to the penal code would maintain the sentence. Experts also asked about allegations by non-governmental organizations that people were still being sentenced to death despite the moratorium.
Responses by the Delegation
With regard to the dissemination and applicability of the covenant, a new department had been set up within the Ministry of Justice to mainstream human rights, even though the Human Rights Commission also addressed that question. The Government was ready and committed to increase the population’s awareness of their rights. The Covenant was directly integrated in the Chad legal system, and could be invoked before all domestic courts.
A lot of effort had been made to ensure that the Human Rights Commission could uphold international standards, including the Paris Principles. The reform process was still being carried out and was going in the right direction. The Human Rights Action Plan was drafted during a workshop with representatives of all ministries, the assembly, unions and human rights organizations; the delay in its adoption was due to budgetary obstacles and the plan would soon be adopted with the necessary financing for its implementation. Only a couple of human rights associations boycotted the 2010 National Human Rights Forum, a delegate confirmed.
The Government, with a view to meeting its international commitments, had initiated a reform of the family code. Consultations were being carried out as the reform was being conducted in an inclusive way. A great deal of awareness-raising efforts were needed, as, for example, most women were in favour of polygamy.
Chad was aware that the death penalty would have to be abolished at some point. However, it had to go through a democratic process and could not be done in one day. Chad had a de facto moratorium, and the death penalty was not applied. Again, awareness-raising efforts were needed. Death sentences were indeed still being pronounced by some judges, but it was possible to get a pardon. The delegation said it was not in a position to discuss judicial rulings on the cases of extrajudicial executions.
Detainees had by law the right to access to their file, access medical treatment, their lawyer and family. They were able to file complaints in cases of misconducts by law enforcement personnel. Those complaints were usually made to the prison director. Chad had made efforts, with the support of the European Union, to improve its judiciary and the penitentiary system. Each domestic jurisdiction had its own commission responsible for oversight and inspection on prison conditions. The draft penal code was discussed less than a week ago, and would lead to several improvements.
Corporal punishment had become very rare these days, even in Islamic schools or the household. Furthermore, the authorities were not in a position to do anything in the absence of complaints.
Follow-up questions from the Experts
Why had there been no legislation defining and sanctioning discrimination? Victims of discrimination could not rely only on constitutional dispositions and case law, Experts said.
Regarding female genital mutilation, the delegation was thanked for its encouraging information on some sentences that had been handed down. The family code had a great role to play in eliminating the practice, as well as domestic violence in general. Victims had to be assisted and not blamed, it was emphasized, as that sometimes seemed to be the case. Difficulties regarding polygamy or female genital mutilations had to be overcome through education and awareness-raising campaigns and a culturally-appropriate approach had to be adopted at all levels.
The law did not seem to always be respected regarding pre-trial and provisional detention, an Expert commented. He also asked how many people sentenced to death were currently in prison, and expressed concern that independent mechanisms that received complaints against acts of torture by police forces of prison authorities.
The response on corporal punishment was not satisfactory, an Expert said, asking whether it was prohibited in the home. Contrary to what the delegation had said, corporal punishment in schools was not rare. There were allegations of children being chained up and beaten. Had any sentence been passed on such cases?
Responses by the Delegation
As a general comment, the delegation regretted that human rights non-government organizations that had shared information with the Committee that they had not shared with the Government of Chad, as having access to their allegations would have helped the delegation answer questions on specific cases. It would be helpful if the Committee encouraged a spirit of cooperation between human rights organizations and the authorities.
Regarding the applicability of the Covenant, the Chadian constitution directly invoked international treaties once it had been ratified. The problem was that most human rights treaties contained no provisions on sanctions or penalties, leading to difficulties for judges to implement them directly in the absence of more concrete domestic legislation.
The United Nations Children Fund had conducted studies on corporal punishment in Chad and concluded that this did not happen anymore in schools on a regular basis. Some isolated cases still occurred, and education was needed to change mentalities.
On questions regarding pre-trial detention, the delegation said that unfairly detained victims received compensation.
Questions from the Expert
The Chairperson of the Committee recalled that civil society organizations had no obligation to share all their information with States parties, and that information submitted in a shadow report by both domestic and international human rights organizations was fully available to the public on the website of the Committee.
Experts welcomed Chad’s efforts to combat violence against women in refugee and displaced persons camps, and asked whether victims of such violence had access to legal remedies. Experts asked what steps would be taken to enhance the protection and status of refugees? Would Chad adopt measures to ensure that children of refugees were given birth certificates?
Committee Members welcomed that Chad had taken measures to help with the reintegration of former child soldiers. Furthermore, it was noted that Chad had taken measures to integrate armed groups into the Chadian army, and the delegation was asked how it ensured that children were no longer recruited by armed forces.
Experts asked about the implementation and effect of the national plan on trafficking in persons and criminal code provisions prohibiting slavery. The Committee, in its previous concluding observations for Chad, had raised concern regarding forced labour and exploitation of children, and had recommended that Chad took action to eradicate the practice and empower poor families to protect their children. What measures had been taken to implement that recommendation? Did the Child Protection Bill referring to forced labour? Did the prohibition of forced labour in the criminal code address the particular situation of children?
Experts asked what efforts were being done to ensure that journalists were not harassed, threatened or limited in their work. Had investigations and prosecutions been undertaken against perpetrators of such acts? What measures were being taken to investigate and prosecute harassment or threats against human rights defenders?
Experts welcomed the delegation’s announcement that imprisonment for debt would no longer be a possibility once the new penal code was adopted.
On arbitrary detentions, Experts reiterated their concerns regarding the case of Khadija Ousmane Mahamat, the girl imprisoned for 11 years without a trial. What could possible justify this? Was this girl in a position to be freed anytime soon? Her case had already been raised by the Committee, and it was regrettable that Chad had not addressed it yet.
Experts asked for details regarding the conditions under which judges were nominated. It seemed that many judges were withdrawn from their positions and reassigned. What results had been achieved by efforts to combat corruption? Were the courts divided in an equal way throughout the territory to ensure that citizens did not have to travel a long way to access the judiciary?
Committee Members welcomed that, according to the report submitted by Chad, the law prohibited early marriage and that the government continued to conduct awareness raising activities against the practice. It appeared however that a contradiction existed within the law. Some provisions set the minimum age for marriage at 16 years old for girls, and some others seemed to allow girls to marry at 13.
Experts were concerned about forced evictions in N'Djamena, which started in 2008 as part of an urbanism plan and continued today. There had been several allegations that authorities did not offer sufficient protection, guarantees of compensations to those evicted. Were further mass evictions planned in capital city N'Djamena?
Responses by the Delegation
Chad had ratified the Kampala Convention and conducted regional workshops on the rights of internally displaced persons and refugees, and would continue efforts to improve their situations. Chad had cooperated with various organizations, including the United Nations Children’s Fund, to ensure that all children of refugees were registered.
The next priority of the action plan to combat trafficking in persons was to draft a bill, particularly addressing the situation of children, within the next 45 days. Chad had cooperated actively with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on the bill.
Freedom of association and assembly were guaranteed. Protests were subject to prior authorization by the Ministry of Interior, in line with international standards. The rights of journalists were also protected. A code of ethics had however to be respected by journalists, who had to avoid any incitement of hatred. That did not constitute a limitation of the freedom of the press. Journalists were so free in Chad that they could even defame, to a certain extent.
Other legislative updates included that reform of the penal code would resolve the problem of imprisonment for debt. Jurisdictions already avoided passing such sentences. A law on civil status had been adopted and was now in place.
One year ago, the case of the girl imprisoned for 11 years, Khadija Ousmane Mahamat, was reopened to verify whether her arrest was justified.
A new directorate had been created to facilitate access to justice, illustrating Chad’s will to ensure access to justice for all citizens. The directorate benefited from credit allocated by the Ministry of Justice. The Government had substantially increased the pay of judges, who were elected by secret ballot by the Council of Ministers and nominated by Presidential Decree. Judges could be revoked in cases of misconduct by an oversight body they established themselves. Chad’s administration of justice was based on both legal provisions and customary law. Both systems were applied side by side. It was true that in the past judges were not specialized, but today they received specialized training.
Although Chad was now bilingual, French was a language that prevailed and there were gaps regarding the translation of all official texts, including the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Chad held workshops with all regional branches of ministries to ensure dissemination of international treaties.
The law allowed for expropriation in cases of public necessity. Persons were first notified and had a reasonable delay for leaving the area. Nothing was done arbitrarily. Most victims then received financial compensation.
The Government had taken several measures against child labour, at national and local levels. For example a circular was launched to ensure that all child herders were protected. Awareness-raising campaigns on the negative effects of child labour were in place, while other measures included implementation of obligations under International Labour Organization conventions.
Follow-up questions from the Experts
Experts continued to raise concerns and inquiries about the case of the arbitrarily detained girl, Khadija Ousmane Mahamat.
IBRAHIM KOULAMALLAH, Minister for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, said despite events of the past Chad was doing its utmost to implement its international human rights obligations. Chad would make sure that the recommendations made by the Committee be duly taken into consideration.
Sir NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, welcomed some of the positive aspects, including on the death penalty. He highlighted the Committee’s deep concerns regarding impunity and the inconceivable arbitrariness of the imprisonment of Khadija Ousmane Mahamat. The Committee said it appreciated that Chad had submitted its second periodic report so quickly following the consideration of the initial report, and also appreciated the expertise of the delegation.
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