Brussels/N’Djamena, 17 December 2018 – Chad has about 12 million inhabitants…and 135 practising lawyers, almost all based in the capital, N’Djamena. Fortunately, they are not the only ones defending people’s rights: supervised and trained by national organisations and by ASF, paralegals provide legal aid services to the most destitute.
Paralegals are men and women who work voluntarily to make the law accessible to everyone. Most of them are ordinary villagers, not legal professionals.
Their work, which complements that of lawyers, is crucial: it enables conflicts to be resolved amicably, in a way that respects everybody’s rights, and promotes peace and social cohesion. They are true ambassadors of the law to the people.
Bedjebedje, aged 60, is a paralegal in Béré: “What motivates me the most is the contribution we are making to society and the way we are educating people about the law. My concern is that justice is done.”
Make a donation: help us to improve the working conditions of paralegals and ensure the quality of the services they provide. For example, 40 euros would cover their travel and communication costs for a month, and thus enable them to reach the most remote areas.Mbaibai (on the right in the photograph), aged 47, mother of five children and paralegal: “Due to a lack of means of transport, I travel on foot. But I consider myself happy and I’m optimistic. I am hopeful that the working conditions will improve one day.”Make a donation:
By bank transfer to the Avocats Sans Frontières account BE89 6300 2274 9185
If the amount that you donate adds up to €40, we will send you a tax receipt in February.
The ASF project with paralegals in Chad is partly funded by the European Union. We need your help to raise the remaining funds so we can carry out all the activities that are planned!
Thank you for your generosity.
We wish you all a very happy holiday season.
PS: We are putting together a team to run the Brussels 20 km on 19 May 2019, to raise money for paralegals in Chad. Join us: you can sign up now!
N’Djamena, 26 November 2018 – This autumn, ASF presents a portrait of justice in Chad, through interviews with four people who are active in defending human rights in the country. Guerimbaye Midaye is a lawyer in the bar association of Chad. He has been active for almost 30 years within the Ligue Tchadienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH), of which he is now the president. For him, combining his roles as a lawyer and as a human rights defender makes obvious sense. “There is a very strong link between the two.”How did the LTDH come about?Midaye: Founded in 1991, shortly after the overthrow of the Hissène Habré regime, the LTDH is the oldest human rights association in Chad. In the first few years, people were confused and thought it was a political organisation. We had to make the authorities and the people understand that defending human rights has nothing to do with seeking power. We can be critical of governance and the management of public affairs, but that doesn’t make us an opposition party.What does the work of the LTDH entail?Midaye: We campaign for the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of conventions that have been ratified by Chad. Our activities include raising people’s awareness, popularising the law, speaking out against violations, and providing legal assistance to people whose rights are being threatened. Does the issue of customary law have a significant impact on the work of the LTDH?Midaye: Yes. Under the pretext of tradition, the traditional authorities sometimes take actions that are detrimental to people’s lives or physical integrity. We make them aware of the fact that respect for human integrity is more important than any other consideration, whatever the customs may be. Take, for example, child cowherds: children, sometimes very young children, work as cowherds for cattle farmers in conditions that are often close to slavery. We campaign for their rights to be respected. We also combat the practice of female genital mutilation.You also provide legal advice…Midaye: We advise the people who come to see us as best we can, depending on the nature of the cases they bring to us. If necessary, we assist them in asserting their rights in court. The law states that anyone who is prosecuted in a criminal case must be assisted by a lawyer. In many areas, however, there are no lawyers. To get around this problem, the judge usually designates the role to anyone who can speak French. They may speak French but have no basic knowledge of how to defend people’s rights! In the LTDH, we often take over cases of people who have been in that situation and are facing very heavy sentences. Two years ago, for example, I defended fifty or so people in a trial in Moussoro. We also help people who have been released to return to their families, sometimes on the other side of the country.According to you, there is a very strong link between the work of lawyers and that of civil society organisations like the LTDH.Midaye: The thing is, there are very few legal experts within civil society organisations. My training as a lawyer and my knowledge of legal procedures is an important asset when it comes to defending human rights. There is a very strong connection between those two aspects. Being a lawyer enables me to understand the mechanics of the legal system, to be in contact with the different actors within it, and to give good advice to the victims of rights violations. Often, they don’t know who to turn to. I point them in the right direction.Some people decide to become lawyers in order to get rich. To be a human rights defender, however, you must be prepared to be humble, to serve a cause without expecting remuneration. For me, the greatest reward of all is when someone I have freed from prison says to me, “Thank you very much!” That means more than the money I get for winning a case in court. How would you describe the way justice operates in Chad? Midaye: It’s a catastrophe. I don’t say that lightly. The recurring problem of corruption gives people the impression that only those who are rich can win. However, not everyone is rich. There is also the issue of bilingualism. Some major justice actors – including some judges – have no legal expertise, or don’t speak any French, the language in which our laws are written. When I am arguing a case before a judge who doesn’t understand what I am saying, as a lawyer, I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’m cheating the person who paid me to work for them. One solution, of course, would be to integrate Arabic into how justice operates, but the state in Chad is not taking any measures to do so.What role do you see Avocats Sans Frontières playing in the country?Midaye: The most important thing is that people take ownership of their rights and know how to assert them and to whom. I hope that ASF will support us in that approach.****
ASF has been in Chad since 2012, with the support of the European Union among others, and carries out several projects with justice actors on the ground. This series of interviews presents a sample of ASF’s different partners in Chad.
N’Djamena, 19 November 2018 – This autumn, ASF presents a portrait of justice in Chad, through interviews with four people who are active in defending human rights in the country. Pyrrhus Banadji Boguel is the President of the Collectif des Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (a group of associations for the defence of human rights). A lawyer who has always been driven by the desire to serve his community, he defends human rights in order to “give a voice to people who have none.”What is the Collectif des Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (CADH)?Pyrrhus Banadji Boguel: The CADH was set up in 1998, to strengthen cooperation between human rights organisations* and support them in their role: contributing to the creation in Chad of a state based on the rule of law and to respect for good governance and human rights. Over 20 years, the group has done much to raise the consciousness of the people of Chad and strengthen their ability to act. It has actively participated in the political, economic, and social life of the country, for example by challenging the public authorities on their responsibility to guarantee and protect human rights, and by denouncing violations of those rights. It has provided objective and relevant analyses of the exploitation of natural resources, the struggle against impunity, access to justice for vulnerable people, the struggle against arbitrary and illegal arrests and gender-based violence, and on monitoring the public service.How do you see your role as a human rights defender?P.B.B.: A human rights defender is the person who is closest to those who are marginalised and there are many people in Chad who are marginalised! He or she is a spokesperson for those who have no voice. Many of our fellow citizens are victims of injustice, for example abuse and fraud by the police or the administrative and military authorities. They don’t know who to turn to for help. They don’t have access to basic essential services such as health and education, or food. Our role is to give a voice to those voiceless people and to combat the social injustice, inequality, fraud, and rights violations of which they have been victims. This conviction has always motivated me.What challenges do human rights defenders face?P.B.B.: There are many! Human rights defenders often experience threats, abuse, and intimidation of all kinds. The public authorities don’t appreciate their role and don’t guarantee them a safe working environment.How would you describe the way justice operates in Chad? P.B.B.: Our legal system still has huge challenges to overcome in order to meet people’s deepest needs in terms of access to justice. It is diseased, weakened by the frequent interference of the administrative and military authorities in legal cases. The consequences are violations of people’s fundamental rights, the disappearance of important files, the corruption of judges and others working within the justice system, appointments that don’t respect the basic criteria of seniority, disputes between magistrates’ unions, etc. There are other problems too, such as antiquated infrastructure, the lack of information for people about the law, fees that are too high in relation to the means of the population, the lack of implementation of legal decisions, time delays, etc. All this makes access to justice complex and difficult for the citizens of Chad, who sometimes therefore turn to private justice, based on vengeance. The eventual creation of a legal system that respects peoples’ individual freedoms and fundamental rights needs to be a priority for the political authorities. To rebuild the justice system and restore its reputation, the recommendations of the national conference on justice in 2003 must be implemented and the efforts that have undertaken since then must be continued. A state cannot become stronger without justice.
* The CADH currently includes six organisations: Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT-Tchad), Association pour la Promotion des Libertés Fondamentales au Tchad (APLFT, of which Pyrrhus Banadji Boguel is also the President), Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ATPDH), Association Tchadienne pour la Non-Violence (ATNV), Ligue Tchadienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH), and Tchad Non-Violence (TNV).
This interview was carried out by Victor Odent, ASF Country Director in Chad.
N’Djamena, 12 November 2018 – This autumn, ASF presents a portrait of justice in Chad, through interviews with four people who are active in defending human rights in the country. This week, Delphine Djiraibe, founder of the Public Interest Law Center, talks to us about the fundamental role of paralegals, the first point of contact for people in Chad when they are looking for justice.
Former President of the Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ATPDH), Delphine Djiraibe set up the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) in 2006. The organisation, which is present in fourteen locations around the country, promotes democracy and the state based on the rule of law, and offers legal aid and assistance to the most destitute people in society. To do this, it trains and supervises local actors, called “paralegals”.
What is a paralegal?Delphine K. Djiraibe: Paralegals are men and women who contribute to making the law accessible to people, on a voluntary basis. Often, they are simple villagers, not legal professionals, whom we select, train, and supervise. We introduce them to basic principles relating to human rights and offer them training modules on the legal problems that are most frequently encountered by members of their communities, such as violence against women or discrimination related to inheritance. The training also covers the right to a healthy environment, the right to education, and the right to vote, as well as the importance of the people’s role in monitoring the actions of those in power. Currently, about 220 paralegals are active in Chad for the PILC. They contribute to preventing conflicts, for example by raising awareness and informing people about their rights and obligations and about the relevant legal procedures. Their work in conflict management mainly consists in providing assistance and advice to people, facilitating amicable settlements and mediating between parties to a dispute, referring people to other services (including the PILC) and/or to the courts when necessary (for example in criminal cases), and assisting people during the pre-trial phase. So paralegals play an essential role in access to justice!D.K.D: Exactly! In Chad, where the formal legal structures are very removed from the people and where the majority of people don’t have the means to hire a lawyer, they really are ambassadors of the law to the population. Take for example the case of a woman who was abandoned by her husband. She didn’t know that she had rights. Thanks to the work of a paralegal, she received a maintenance payment in kind (sacks of millet, shea oil, etc.), enabling her to meet her needs and those of her child. The work of paralegals helps to avoid automatic recourse to the police forces and the authorities. It also helps to ease the strain on the courts. The legal backlog in the country is enormous. Many cases have been awaiting a decision for years. This is due to the many strikes by the personnel of the justice system, and also to the endemic corruption and lack of independence in the legal system. The importance of the role of paralegals is becoming increasingly recognised, by the people who benefit from their services as well as by the formal and traditional authorities, who, to begin with, saw them as competitors who threatened their position. In fact, paralegals now genuinely collaborate with traditional leaders in conflict management. Their work helps to ensure that it is done “by the book” and does not replicate gender-based discrimination or discrimination of any other kind, which exist in some traditional structures.What challenges do paralegals face in their day-to-day work?D.K.D: Their working conditions are often challenging. They give up their time, even though many of them also have a job. They are in high demand, including in the surrounding areas. The lack of funds for travel and communication prevents them from reaching the most remote areas. They often lack adequate local premises. Paralegals are very committed people and, as I said before, volunteers. As their role becomes increasingly important, the question of paying them or, at the very least, covering their expenses, is increasingly pressing: how can it be organised and how can its sustainability be ensured? One solution would be to support the creation of a mutual fund.The general insecurity in the country is another challenge. A paralegal travelling from one village to another to work, risks being attacked or robbed. In some zones where the PILC is active, there are a lot of conflicts between livestock farmers and agriculturists, which can be very violent.*In 2016, all the civil society organisations that work with paralegals, with support from ASF, developed a joint document on the status and role of paralegals. This set out to standardise the rules and principles that govern the work of paralegals. It must now be implemented. In the PILC, another one of our aims is to establish a network of paralegals, so that they can discuss challenges and good practice. We have appointed facilitators, who keep them in touch with each other.What is clear, and what makes us keep going despite the difficulties, is that paralegals are very proud of their role and wouldn’t give it up for the world. They have become indispensable within their communities and are very proud when their work enables conflicts to be resolved peacefully.
– Interview with Pyrrhus Banadji Boguel, President of the Collectif des Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme
– Interview with Guerimbaye Midaye, Honorary President of the Ligue Tchadienne des Droits de l’Homme.
N’Djamena, 5 November 2018 – This autumn, ASF presents a portrait of justice in Chad, through interviews with four people who are active in defending human rights in the country. This week, Doumra Manassé shares his vision of the role of lawyers and their place in society in Chad. “People see us as civil servants or as traders. We are neither.”
Doumra Manassé (age 39) is a lawyer. He grew up in Bebalem, in the south of the country, before moving to N’Djamena, where he still works today, to start studying law. A hell of a challenge!
Manassé: It took 10 years for me to finish my studies and obtain a Master’s in private law. An academic year here can last up to 20 months, due to the many strikes by teachers demanding that their salaries be paid. The system for marking students is itself often arbitrary. A student who comes from the same region as their teacher, for example, will receive better marks than another one.
Once you have qualified, how do you become a lawyer?Manassé: There is no competition to become a lawyer; people often use their connections. I didn’t need any myself: I was able to land an internship in the office of Mahamat Hassan Abakarn. He is the lawyer who headed the Commission set up to investigate the 40,000 killings committed under the Hissène Habré regime, which led to a referral to the Extraordinary African Chambers.I also was also able to take the oath barely five months after starting my internship, when some people can wait for up to five years.How do the people perceive lawyers?Manassé: There is still a widespread lack of knowledge about what lawyers do. People see us as civil servants or as traders. We are neither. Even some judges don’t understand our role! Just recently, an examining judge kicked me out when I was assisting a client. When I called a bailiff to say that I was being prevented from doing my work, the judge allowed me to remain present “on condition that I stay silent until the end of the hearing.”How would you describe the way justice operates in general?Manassé: Justice as an institution in this country is in disarray. In N’Djamena, for example, there is no proper courts building. The high court, the public prosecutor, etc. are housed in buildings that were intended to accommodate the members of the petroleum monitoring body. The premises are cramped, hot, and dark. Everything is done to ensure that you can’t think. Some judges are untrained and cause disruption in the justice system. Many are not sovereign and independent. The administration intrudes and interferes. Some judges will use their influence to win cases. In 2013, the legislature made it possible for the Ministry of Justice to petition the Supreme Court in the interest of the law, with no possibility of appeal. This is clearly illegal. The creation of a state based on the rule of law is essential for the development of Chad.What are the day-to-day challenges you encounter when carrying out your work?Manassé:I encounter a lot of resistance from people who are supposed to help me in my work, such as police officers and governors. Corruption is also a problem; I have often been pressured and even threatened to drop cases. Cases of lawyers being attacked, for example by the family of the opposing party, are not uncommon. I myself was almost killed in Doba, and nearly abducted from my home. From the moment you try to tell the truth and defend people’s rights, things are extremely difficult. Access to certain places is another challenge. One of my clients, for example, was arrested by the intelligence services. I was unable to meet with him because I didn’t have the authorisation needed to enter the centre where he was held for a month without food. I had to threaten to involve international organisations to have my client freed. He had lost a lot of weight.There are also financial considerations: the majority of people in Chad do not have the means to pay a lawyer. Sometimes I have to jump through hoops to make ends meet and feed my family.What gives you the courage to continue? Manassé: The desire, which has always driven me, to defend the many people who have been victims of injustices in my country. Take Jacques Vergès [the French lawyer who defended the Nazi Klaus Barbie, among others, Editor’s note]. Many people here don’t understand how we can defend certain people. But the right of every person to be defended is sacred, as is the presumption of innocence until a judgement has been pronounced. Is a lawyer a defender of human rights?Manassé: Without a doubt! In fact, it’s our main role. When human rights violations occur, lawyers should be the first to stand up and say no to infractions. We are participating in the construction of the state based on the rule of law and of democracy.
An interview carried out by Victor Odent, ASF Country Director in Chad.
– Interview with Delphine Djiraibe, President of the Public Interest Law Centre.
– Interview with Pyrrhus Banadji Boguel, President of the Collectif des Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme in Chad.
– Interview with Guerimbaye Midaye, Honorary President of the Ligue Tchadienne des Droits de l’Homme.
De manière générale, ce sont les autorités judiciaires qui ont la compétence pour délivrer des mandats, en particulier le mandat d’arrêt.
Plus précisément, le mandat d’arrêt doit être décerné par le tribunal en charge du dossier. Une nouveauté est insérée dans le projet de nouveau code de procédure pénale tchadien. Selon ce même projet, le juge d’instruction aura lui aussi la faculté de décerner tous types de mandats, dont le mandat d’arrêt.
Par la suite, le mandat d’arrêt est transmis à un officier ou à un agent de la police judiciaire ou à un agent de la force publique, qui sera chargé de la notification et de l’exécution de celui-ci.
Article 55 du Code de procédure pénale
Article 66 alinéa 2 du Code de procédure pénale
Article 68 du Code de procédure pénale
Article 263 alinéa 6 du Projet du nouveau Code de procédure pénale