July 15, 2006

Wave of repression reported in Chad

By Stephanie Hancock

N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - A human rights group in Chad has
accused the government of a wave of arbitrary arrests and
political disappearances following a rebel assault three months
ago on the capital of the central African oil producer.

Human Rights Without Frontiers (DHSF) accused the Chadian
state of carrying out a witch hunt' against those it suspects
of collaborating with rebels in the April 13 attack -- which
killed hundreds of people just weeks before elections.

DHSF and relatives of some of those who have disappeared
want the government to say who is in detention and where they
are being held.

Ninety days after the fierce fighting on N'Djamena's dusty
streets, many people taken from their homes by security forces
have still not been seen or heard of, DHSF claims.

A significant proportion of those detained were civilians,
though senior Chadian military officers were also held, the
human rights group said.

"Following the attack on N'Djamena on April 13, we have
observed that there has been a witch hunt," DHSF President
Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet told Reuters.

"Are these people alive? Are they dead? If they are alive,
what sort of state are they in? We are even receiving reports
that some people have been executed."

Chadian Human Rights Minister Abderamane Jasnabaille was
unavailable for comment.

DHSF and relatives of those seized are demanding an
international enquiry and are calling on President Idriss
Deby's government to say where those arrested are being held.

Passalet said his organization knows of at least 20 people
-- both civilians and military personnel -- who have been
arrested and of whom there is now no trace.

"We are certain this figure is just the tip of the
iceberg," he said. "That's why we are asking relatives of
people who've been taken to come forward."

The government says those arrested are suspected of having
links with the rebels from eastern Chad. Relatives of the
disappeared say that if they are suspected of treason, the
prisoners should be tried in court or released.

Deby said the rebels are mercenaries in the pay of Sudanese
President Omar Hassan el-Bashir, trying to extend Arab
fundamentalist Islam in Chad. A French-trained former fighter
pilot, Deby has held power since 1990 and won a fresh five-year
term in May 3 polls.

The elections were boycotted as fraudulent by the
opposition, which has called for France to withdraw its
military assistance from Deby's government. France has a
garrison of some 1,200 troops in Chad and provides military
intelligence to Deby.

Mahamat Bichare said his uncle, a colonel in the military
police, was abducted from his home in April during Easter
celebrations with friends and family.

"Suddenly he received a message the President of the
Republic wanted to see him," 31-year-old Bichare said. "He left
to investigate, and after a while came back home. But shortly
afterwards, everyone at the house was arrested ... military and
civilians alike."

"The next day most people were released, but my uncle and
several of his bodyguards were not. We still don't know where
they are," said Bichare, adding that police plundered
everything from his uncle's home -- money, food and even

With persistent rumors of prisoners being tortured and even
executed, Bichare is desperate for news of his uncle.

"Even if they are dead, they should tell our families. Then
we could give them a proper funeral."