Chad: New law jeopardizes the right to freedom of association

Authorities in Chad have failed to address the vague and repressive provisions in a new law on the right to freedom of association, Amnesty International and four federations of local human rights organizations said today.
In an analysis report “The use of national legislation to restrict the right to freedom of association’’, the organizations highlight how authorities missed the opportunity to include their recommendations on bringing the law into line with Chad’s international and regional obligations as well as the country’s own Constitution.
“The authorities have completely disregarded all our recommendations on reforming this repressive law and, in so doing, demonstrated their lack of commitment to respecting human rights,” said Balkissa Ide Siddo, Amnesty International Central Africa Researcher.
“The environment in which civil society associations are working will continue to deteriorate unless the authorities take concrete actions to change this law and adopt the recommendations they failed to include.”
President Idriss Deby Itno promulgated a new Constitution in May 2018 as part of the new Fourth Republic of Chad. In June, the authorities amended a number of laws including the Ordinance that regulates associations, failing to take into account recommendations made by national and international human rights organizations. 
The new law imposes a blanket ban on all “regionalist or community associations” without providing any legal grounds or explanation, and maintains a previous provision which requires that citizens creating associations must receive a prior authorization from the Ministry of Territorial Administration before they can start operating.
The new law also prescribes prison terms of up to five years and fines of up to 4,573 Euros (3 million CFA) for people involved in the creation and administration of “unauthorized and unregistered associations”.
“The way in which this particular provision is drafted gives the authorities broad discretionary powers, which may result in the arbitrary interference with the right to freedom of association,” said Mahamat Ibedou Nour, spokesperson for ‘’Collectif ça suffit”.
“There is a high risk that this could involve the denial of registration based on spurious and politically motivated grounds, especially when the applying organization is deemed undesirable by the authorities,” added Céline Narmadji, spokesperson for ‘’Coalition Trop c’est Trop”.
The new law also limits the right to form and join federations of associations to those with the same nationality, similar aims and activity focused on identical problems. Further it requires that associations wishing to form a federation obtain a prior authorization to start operating.
There is another high risk that the authorities use this new law to legalize the fact that they have prohibited all activities of federations of associations such as the Mouvement d’Eveil Citoyen (MECI) which brings together civil society organizations, political parties and trade unions campaigning against the mismanagement of public funds and calling for democratic changes.
Another draconian provision contained in this law discriminates foreign associations including by limiting in time their authorization to operate and requiring them to renew it on a regular basis. It also stipulates that the authorization to foreign associations may be withdrawn at any time without any legal basis, or legal mechanisms to challenge such decision before a court.
“As we feared, the process to reform this law did not include a genuine consultation with national and international human rights organizations and this has resulted in hardening draconian provisions which unlawfully restrict the right to freedom of association,” said Purrhus Banadji Bogeul, Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Collectif des Associations de Droits Humains” (ADH in French).
The new law also unduly restricts the right to freedom of expression of associations and its members by prohibiting the involvement of human rights organizations, religious associations and student associations in “political” activities.
Under the new law, associations are only allowed to seek funding and resources from a limited list of sources – namely members, membership fees, donations, bequests or grants. This violates the right of associations to seek and secure funding and resources.
There are also provisions under which the state may control the management of the property of an association and may, at any time, be presented with the books and records.
These last provisions may lead to unjustified interference in the governance of associations to further curb their activities, especially those seen as critical of the authorities.
“We call on the Chadian authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of association is enjoyed by everyone without discrimination by repealing all the provisions contained in the new law that unduly restrict this right,” said Alain Didah, spokesperson of Iyina Citizen Movement.

Amnesty International
Mouvement Iyina  
Collectif ça suffit +33 605543018 / +23562621648 / +23599207888
Collectif des Associations des Droits Humains +23566297855
Coalition Trop c’est Trop +23566294085

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Lucy Scholey, Amnesty International Canada (English):  +1 613-744-7667 ext. 236;