Forty-four detainees who were found dead in a gendarmerie detention centre in the Chadian capital N’Djamena on Thursday, April 15, 2020, succumbed to poor detention conditions, according to an independent investigation by Chad’s National Human Rights Commission.
The fact-finding and investigation mission also repudiated an initial assessment from authorities that the detainees were Boko Haram members.
The commission stated that the victims were farmers and villagers who were arbitrarily arrested.
The 44 were part of a group of 58 persons arrested by the Chadian military after an operation in the Lake Chad region against Boko Haram.
Between March 23 and April 8, 2020, the Chadian military conducted an operation called anger of Bohoma in response to an attack by Boko Haram on a military base on the peninsula of Bohoma,
The commission revealed that the conditions of detention (cramped cell, severe heat, thirst and hunger) led to the death of the detainees and that prison officials did not provide assistance despite cries of distress by detainees all night.
Relatives of the victims interviewed by the commission said the detainees were mostly heads of families who had left in search of food.
The Chadian Minister of Justice, Djimet Arabi, had earlier mentioned a possible “collective suicide” by poisoning as the cause of death.
When Arabi was contacted by AFP on the new findings, he said that a judicial investigation was ongoing.
“When the time comes, if there are sanctions to be taken against people to whom the responsibilities are imputed, these people will be sanctioned,” the minister said.
The remaining 14 surviving detainees told the commission that they were arrested for violating the state of emergency and travel ban imposed in the Lake Chadian region during the military operations.
The Centre for Studies for the Development and Prevention of Extremism in a press release on Saturday, August 8, 2020, called on the Chadian authorities to act immediately.
The organisation stated that violation of human rights was one of the sources of violent extremism and called on the authorities to act immediately with concrete actions.
Boko Haram has waged a decade-long insurgency against Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic with over 30,000 people killed and 2.4 million others displaced.
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