27 June 2019
N’Djamena, 27 June 2019 – In Chad, ASF supports human rights organisations (HROs) with the aim of increasing the impact and scope of their activities. Last March, we went to meet individuals, local authorities, legal actors, and members of HROs, to get their opinions on the work that HROs do. In the interviews, which were carried out in Bongor, Moundou, and Sarh, everyone who was questioned expressed a high level of satisfaction with the activities of HROs.
People praised the awareness-raising campaigns carried out by HROs and the individual assistance they provide, which enable them not only to be more aware of their rights, which were previously little-known, but also to receive invaluable assistance with writing their complaints and petitions. They hope to see the activities of HROs throughout the country intensified and expanded. As one beneficiary put it:
“Through guidance, advice, and awareness-raising, human rights defenders really help everyone who request their services. We are feeling our way and it’s the HROs that help us.”
Though they admit having had some reservations about HROs in the past, neighbourhood leaders, police chiefs, and other provincial authorities now recognise that there is a convergence between their mission and that of HROs, namely in ensuring the safety of people and their property. Some described HROs as “a compass that guides us in our mission”, while others highlighted their “remarkable work”. They hope to see an intensification of the activities of HROs and the strengthening and improvement of their collaboration with them.
The work of judges and court clerks is simplified by the work of HROs. They observe that people who have contact with HROs before starting legal proceedings are better prepared for hearings. They have a better understanding of their rights, are better able to navigate the procedures, are equipped with complaints and petitions that are of higher quality, and are better able to answer the questions they are asked. One court clerk who was interviewed, nonetheless, warned against the practices of some members of HROs, who sometimes push people to initiate proceedings that they are unwilling to undertake, or who are not impartial.
Prosecutors say that the work of HROs compliments their own:
“In my opinion, the presence of HROs in the field is an advantage for judges. The judge is confined to an office; it’s the human rights defender who provides them with more information about misconduct. The judge considers that before initiating public prosecution. It’s thanks to human rights defenders that we learn about the horrible practices that occur in remote parts of Chad.”
Some prosecutors, nonetheless, urge HROs to be prudent and to verify their information, because claims can sometimes be erroneous.
As for the members of HROs who were interviewed, they say that, although relations with the authorities in some regions remain antagonistic, an improvement and an openness to dialogue has nonetheless been observed. They express frustration that a lack of understanding of their role continues to cause conflict with some authorities and creates confusion among the people. They intend to intensify their activities to combat this problem and to increase the number of people they help, but they are also very aware that all such activities will be limited by their budgetary constraints.
These interviews were carried out by the Collectif des Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme au Tchad, with technical support from ASF, and funded by the European Union and the Embassy of France in Chad.
Photographs © CADH & Saturnin Asnan Non-Doum for the CADH and ASF