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Djibouti has been ruled by authoritarian President Ismail Omar Guelleh since 1999. President Guelleh’s government has been accused by the opposition of corruption, rigging of the national elections and severe human rights violations. Djibouti ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2002. However, reports of unlawful and arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings, especially of human rights defenders and journalists, curtailment of the freedom of speech, cases of inhuman and degrading treatment by the government and harsh prison and detention conditions have been common.
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the overcrowding and unsanitary condition of the Gabode Central Prison and the Nagad Detention Facility – mainly used to hold migrants. According to reports, the deficient environmental conditions in these facilities, particularly the non-segregation of violent and non-violent offenders and the lack of proper ventilation and potable water, violate the standards set by the UN Convention against Torture.
In 2021, Djibouti witnessed public outcry against the abuse of Lieutenant Fouad Youssouf Ali, who was arbitrarily arrested by the police for criticising the government and the theft of a military aeroplane. Protestors participating in demonstrations in support of Lieutenant Fouad were detained. The OMCT is concerned about the reports of arbitrary arrest of journalists, bloggers and opposition members.
In a landmark achievement, the government passed the Protection Law in 2021, allowing for the protection and care of all women and children who are victims of violence, sexual harassment and discrimination