Djibouti continues to be ruled by one of the most repressive governments in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, with little to no independent HRDs operating in the country today. Since November 2016, civil society has suffered a number of attacks where journalists, HRDs, and union workers have been arbitrarily arrested. Since March 2017, local sources report an increase in harassment by authorities, with arbitrary detentions happening on a daily basis.
Freedom of Association
Freedom of association is highly restricted in the country, with little to no human rights NGOs able to operate independently, and since 2005, independent trade unions are no longer recognised by the State, which has outlawed their activities and meetings.
Omar Ewado, a prominent Djiboutian HRD with the Ligue djiboutienne des droits de l’homme (LDDH), was arrested by Djiboutian national intelligence agents at his home on 19 March 2017. Dressed in plain clothing and heavily armed, the agents threatened his family and took him away in a minibus to an unknown location. Mr. Ewado was released 8 days later after starting a hunger strike in detention. The reason for his arrest is still unknown.
Mr. Ewado was previously arrested in January 2016 and sentenced to three months in prison. He was found guilty of public defamation by Djibouti’s Criminal Court after LDDH issued public statements condemning the security forces’ killing of up to 27 people during a public gathering on 21 December 2015. Mr. Ewado’s sentence was overturned on 14 February 2016 by the Appeals Court of Djibouti.
On 13 March 2017, four high profile members of the opposition party Mouvement pour le Renouveau Démocratique et le Développement were arrested, according to LDDH reports. While one member was later released, the others are still being detained without access to legal representation. Local human rights observers and the president of MRD believe the arrests to be politically motivated.
Freedom of Expression
In October 2016, Djibouti officially launched its new National Commission on Communications, whose mandate is to advise the government and submit recommendations on safeguarding freedom of the press and the right to information. While this is a positive step, no substantial activities have been recorded by local partners since the Commission was established.
In addition to HRDs and political activists, media professionals, artists, independent thinkers, writers, and speakers in Djibouti are frequently subjected to interrogation, detention, and torture by authorities. Most recently, in early March 2017, the famous caricaturist Idriss Hassan Mohamed was arrested and held in an undisclosed location for five days. According to LDDH, his leg was broken during the interrogation and detention. LDDH also claims he was arrested in retaliation for an article he published criticising the regime.
 DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), “Djibouti: Immediately release Omar Ewado”, 20 March 2017, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2017/03/djibouti-immediately-release-omar-ewado/, Accessed April 27 2017.
 DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), “Djibouti, Ethiopia, and South Sudan: DefendDefenders Condemns Attacks and Arrests of HRDs and Journalists”, 15 January 2016, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2016/01/djibouti-ethiopia-and-south-sudan-defenddefenders-condemns-attacks-and-arrests-of-hrds-and-journalists/, Accessed 27 April 2017.
 Ligue Djiboutienne des droits humains, “Arrestation des Internautes à Djibouti”, 8 March 2017, http://www.lddh.net/arrestation-des-internautes-a-djibouti/, Accessed 27 April 2017.
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