Last year's Rafto Prize laureate in Geneva: "The government of Chad must fulfill the promises made to thousands of torture victims."

Nodjigoto Charbonnel had a clear message when he participated in the UN hearing on the human rights situation in Chad in Geneva last week.

In 2022, Nodjigoto Charbonnel received the Rafto Prize for his efforts to abolish torture in his home country of Chad in Central Africa.

Last week, Charbonnel participated in a UN hearing in Geneva on the human rights situation in Chad. He was accompanied by representatives from the Chadian League for Human Rights and senior adviser Iver Ørstavik from the Rafto Foundation.

Killed demonstrators

Ørstavik explains that the government in Chad has made some legal progress in recent years. The death penalty is now prohibited, and laws prohibiting torture have been enacted in the country. However, the legislation is often ignored by the authorities in many cases.

"The excessive use of violence and torture is common in the institutions responsible for law enforcement. The legislation also does not encourage the prosecution of torturers in the command chain of the Chadian state," says Ørstavik.

On October 20th last year, Chad experienced extreme government violence. The military and police brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrators in the capital, N'Djamena, following protests against the government's postponement of democratic elections.

"At least 218 people were killed, and over 800 were arrested. Many of those arrested were mistreated, and several are still detained without charges or trial in the notorious Korotoro prison in the central desert of Chad," says Ørstavik.

Charbonnel alongside Lamtouin Ngafwe, Delphine Djiraïbé, and Adoum Boukar. Ngafwe and Boukar represent the Chadian League for Human Rights, while Djiraïbé represents the Public Interest Law Center in N'Djamena.

Support from Rafto Foundation

With support from the Rafto Foundation, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) organized the trip to Geneva for Charbonnel and the other human rights activists.

The representatives provided their testimonies during the Universal Periodic Review, which all UN member states undergo every 4.5 years. UN bodies and civil society organizations contribute input to the review before member states offer their recommendations.

Among the issues activists from Cgad raised in the UN hearing were violations of general democratic rights such as freedom of speech, organization, and assembly. Other issues highlighted included women's and refugees' rights in Chad, as well as the residents' right to avoid arbitrary imprisonment, forced disappearances, executions, or torture.

"The government in Chad provides almost no services to the general population and is primarily focused on maintaining its own power position," says Charbonnel.

Concerned about the situation of prisoners

He says there is an urgent need for legislation that establishes the state's responsibility to provide rehabilitation for the many victims of political torture in Chad over the past generation.

"The current government in Chad must fulfill the promises made to thousands of torture victims after the verdict against former President Hissène Habré," says Charbonnel.

Last year's Rafto Prize recipient is also concerned about the situation of those who were arrested during the demonstrations in the country's capital last year.

"I call for recognition of the human rights of all prisoners in Korotoro prison and the immediate release of anyone who have not been presented with probable cause for their arrest. An independent commision of inquiry should be established to investigate the events of October 20th 2022 as soon as possible," concludes Charbonnel.