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Labour | Human rights

Djibouti govt continues war on unions

afrol News, 5 April - The government of Djibouti is shocking national and foreign trade unions and UN agencies with a wave of arrests of union leaders and the expulsion of UN representatives looking into labour rights. Prominent union leader Adan Abdou yesterday was arrested on direct order from the Justice Minister, only one day after was freed following a court order.

Since the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in February published a report condemning Djibouti's implementation of core labour standards, authorities have been at war with trade unions and international rights organisations. Most prominent union leaders were arrested in early March after they had been attending a training course run by the powerful Israeli Histradut union. Four unionists were accused of engaging in "secret contacts with a foreign power" and perpetrating an "affront to the President" of Djibouti, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh.

While the tense situation seemed to calming down by end-March, a joint visit by the ICFTU and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) again stirred up tempers. The joint ICFTU-FIDH mission on 1 April was expelled when arriving Djibouti's international airport. "A verbal agreement by the Minister for the Interior" had guaranteed there would be no obstacles for the mission, ICFTU claims.

On Monday 3 April, Djibouti authorities went even further, expelling Ibrahim Mayaki, an official of the UN's International Labour Office (ILO) and holder of a diplomatic passport. Mr Mayaki had been on an official visit to Djibouti since Saturday. He was to meet with human rights defenders, including trade unionists, pursuant to complaints reported to his UN agency about violations of trade union rights and legal harassment targeting several trade unionists in Djibouti courts.

According to information received by the Djibouti Human Rights League, the UN official was arrested at his hotel on Monday morning by two members of the National Police General Intelligence Service, who had no special warrant to do so. Mr Mayaki was interrogated by the security forces for more than three hours at the General Intelligence Directorate about his activities in Djibouti. Before being released, authorities forced him to sign an expulsion order.

As soon as the ILO official had been expelled, Secretary-General of the Djibouti Labour Union (UDT) Adan Abdou was arrested at his home by the national police. According to the unionist, Mr Abdou yesterday was taken to the central prison in Gabode, outside the capital.

Mr Abdou and the UDT's Hassan Cher had only been released provisionally on Wednesday, 29 March after having been detained for 19 days after their visit to Israel together with two other UDT officials. Djibouti police reportedly "are actively searching" for Mr Cher, but have yet to find him again.

According to IFCTU, the Djiboutian Justice Minister "personally gave the order for the two men to be rearrested the day after they were released provisionally by the Djibouti Court."

Two other UDT officials, Djibril Ismaël Igueh and Mohamed Ahmed have been languishing in prison since their arrests on 5 March, the day after they returned from Israel. All four are due to appear before the Chamber of Indictments at the Djibouti Court tomorrow Thursday, 6 April.

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