Human Rights Watch urges AU to deploy crisis team to protect civilian and defend rule of law in Chad, after President is killed

Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that Chad’s transitional military council should scrupulously respect human rights and the rule of law, ensuring that civilians are protected and avoid any escalation of abuses against civilians.

The rights group said the military council should also ensure a swift transition to democratic civilian rule, upholding the right of Chadians to elect their leaders in free and fair elections.  

A spokesman for the Chadian army announced on national television on April 20, 2021, that President Idriss Déby Itno, 68, had died of injuries suffered in clashes between rebels and government forces. The exact circumstances of his death remain unclear. The spokesman said that the government and parliament have been dissolved, all borders have been shut, and a transitional military council headed by Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, one of Déby’s sons, will be in charge of the country for the next 18 months. This is contrary to Chad’s Constitution, which provides that in the event of the death of a president, the president of the national assembly should provisionally lead the country for 45 to 90 days before a new election.

“The potentially explosive consequences of President Déby’s death cannot be underestimated – both for the future of Chad and across the region,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Chad’s regional and international partners should closely monitor the situation and use their influence to prevent abuses against civilians.”

On April 19, the Chadian electoral commission announced that Déby had won a sixth term in the presidential elections held on April 11. The pre-election period was marred by a ruthless government crackdown on protesters and the political opposition. On election day, rebels from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), based in Libya, invaded Chad, attacked a military post, and called on Déby to step down. Clashes between rebels and government forces continued over the following days in the western Kanem province.

The African Union (AU) should urgently deploy a crisis team from its Early Warning and Conflict Prevention Division, including human rights observers, to monitor developments and urge Chadian security forces as well as armed groups to refrain from attacking civilians, Human Rights Watch said. The AU should appoint a new special envoy to the Sahel to help bolster and coordinate AU efforts across the region.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should also closely monitor the situation and support the work of local human rights defenders.

For years, international players have propped up Déby’s government for its support for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel and the Lake Chad basin and involvement in other regional initiatives while largely turning a blind eye to his legacy of repression and violations of social and economic rights at home.

“Chad’s transitional leaders, with support from regional and international partners, should work toward reversing Chad’s downward human rights trajectory,” Sawyer said. “They should ensure a prompt and peaceful transition to civilian government, based on Chadians’ free exercise of their wishe

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