By Ted Townsend,
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
PARIS, France – Representatives from rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, pressed French President Nicolas Sarkozy not to “cover up” the actions of Chadnian President Idriss Deby (“Deby”). Deby is accused of playing a role in the February 3rd disappearance of members of political opposition groups, as part of a crackdown against political opponents after a failed coup. Further investigation by Human Rights Watch has determined the opposition politicians were taken by state security forces, despite Chadnian claims to the contrary.
The Chadnian Government denies any role in the disappearances, and stated that “an official inquiry had been unable to locate Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh (Saleh) . . . and Ngarley Yorongar (Yorongar).” Both men are vocal members of the political opposition; Saleh a spokesman for a coalition of opposition parties, and Yorongar a prominent member of the opposition in Parliament.
Further, Chadnian Interior Minister Ahmat Bachir suggested that since the men were seized while rebels controlled the N’Djamena neighborhoods they lived in, they were likely rebel captives. Chadnian Foreign Minister Ahmad Allam-Mi also added that Yorongar was “hiding” in N’Djamena, and that Yorongar’s sister and chauffer said he was going to resurface and speak to the press soon. The chauffeur refutes this, claiming he has not heard from Yorongar since February third.
Multiple eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch researchers that Chadnian government soldiers took each man into custody, forcing their way into each man’s home and removing him forcefully. The eyewitnesses detailed each arrest, claiming that ten soldiers in Chadnian army uniforms took each man away in beige Toyota four-wheel drive vehicles, the type of vehicle that is standard issue in the Chadnian army.
Human Rights Watch African Director Georgette Gagnon believes the “Chadnian Government should publicly acknowledge the whereabouts of Yorongar and Ibni.” “They should be released immediately, or charged with a crime and accorded all their rights.” An Amnesty International representative added “These men are at grave risk of being tortured. The French Government should not cover up the excesses of the Chadnian Government.”
The pressure this week is focused on France because President Sarkozy is visiting the former French Colony this week. Many see the French in the best position to effectuate the release of the prisoners given the relationship between the two countries. President Sarkozy, for his part, claimed “he would ask Deby to set up an independent inquiry into the disappearances.”
For more information, please see:
Human Rights Watch – Chad: Account for ‘Disappeared’ Opposition Leaders – 25 February 2008
IOL.com – Opposition Figure Still Missing – Colleague – 27 February 2008
VOA News – French President Visits Chad as Rights Groups Urge Pressure on Chadian Leader – 27 February 2008
AFP – Sarkozy urged to press Chad on fate of opposition members – 27 February 2008
Impunity Watch – Amnesty International Claims Chadian Government is Violating Human Rights – 22 February 2008