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Chad/ Disappearance of Ibni Oumar Saleh. Open Letter to the French National Assemblee

Published on 29 September 2008 - Survie

Twelve NGOs call for French deputies and senators to delineate the responsibilities of the Chadian government in the strange disappearance of Mr. Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh and to initiate a parliamentary debate on French policies in Chad.

For the attention of our French Deputies and Senators,

Paris 29/9/08

Ladies, Gentlemen,

In February of this year, during an attack by rebel groups on the capital of N’djamena, several citizens of the unarmed political opposition were kidnapped. On his visit to N’djamena February 27, President Nicholas Sarkozy asked the Chadian government to set up an inquiry commission to investigate these events.

On September 3 “the Commission of Inquiry into the events which occurred in Chad from January 29 to February 8 and their consequences” produced its findings. According to this report, “Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh being the only victim who has not reappeared, it may be […] assumed that by now he is deceased, either as a result of mistreatment or assassination.

The testimonies gathered by the Commission “lead us to conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that the Chadian National Army (CNA) is implicated” in the disappearance of this political opponent [1]. Nevertheless the inquiry has not allowed us to “identify the sponsors, perpetrators and accomplices of his arrest, his detention or his homicide.” The Commission has not been able to hear all the people it wished to question and was also not able to obtain all the documents it requested in particular a listing of the army’s fleet of Toyotas.

According to the report, “the unlikelihood that this action could have derived from the personal initiative of a military subordinate […] points to implication of the highest Chadian military authorities.” Thus the authors of the report implicitly raise the question of the role of the Chadian Head of State in the chain of command:

Although the proof of his involvement or instigation has not been established, it is permitted to raise the following questions: “in such a highly centralized regime could any military officer, even of high rank, organize the disappearance of political opponents, their detention and their reappearance in a military compound (as was the case of Mr. Lol Mahamat Choua) without the consent of the country’s President? Moreover on that particular Sunday February 3, the presidential residency was the only place that remained operational in the capital, the only place to which the different government authorities retreated to rally around the Chief of State.

Today the Commission report reiterates that “only the will of the Chadian State could enable full disclosure” concerning the disappearance of Mr. Ibni Oumar Saleh. In the past, cases of forced disappearances have met with total impunity. According to Amnesty International the 13 civilians and high-ranking officers who were arrested in April 2006 by national security forces during a previous rebel offensive on N’djamena never reappeared. The sponsors or authors of all these forced disappearances have yet to be identified and brought to trial.

President Nicolas Sarkozy who called this Commission into being cannot now claim to be satisfied with all the unanswered questions regarding the responsibility of the Chadian National Army in the disappearance of Mr. Saleh.

On September 5 Mr. Gaetan Gorce, parliamentary deputy of the Nievre and Mr. Jean-Pierre Sueur, senator of the Loiret wrote to President Sarkozy asking him to bear upon the Chadian authorities to clarify the circumstances and responsibilities surrounding the disappearance of Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh.

We are addressing the present letter to you with the urgent request to prevail upon President Sarkozy to bring about the identification and arrest of the authors and sponsors of these crimes. We consider respect for legal due process, particularly in the case of Mr. Saleh and his family a political priority for continued French dealings with the present Chadian government.

Furthermore the Commission report disclosed that “President Deby also stated that two French army officers were present at the presidential residency” the day the opposition leaders were arrested. Given the decisive role of France and its armed forces in Chadian affairs for so many decades and again during the critical events of last February, it would seem indispensable for our parliament to organize a debate around our continuing presence in Chad.

Last March 11 some of the undersigned associations had already urged you to create a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into this sensitive subject of forced disappearances.

We are hereby reiterating our previous request, and we are relying on the members of our national assembly to follow up on this grave matter.

Sincerely yours,

Signing Associations:

- Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France)
- Acting Together for Human Rights (AEDH)
- Cedetim/Ipam
- Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD)
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
- Movement for Peace
- League for Human Rights (LDH)
- Peuples Solidaires
- Network for Faith and Justice Europe-Africa (French branch)
- Secours Catholique / Caritas France
- Human Rights Watch (HRW)
- Survie

(Translated for Survie by JF)

Note : for the original French version check out the rubric Communiqué de Presse et letters ouvertes

[1More broadly speaking the report points out the responsibility of members of the Chadian Army in committing rapes, abductions and destroying property.

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