Djibouti - Defence of Judge Mohamed Cheick Souleiman

The ASF Network expresses its concern about the Judge Mohamed Cheick Souleiman in Djibouti pursued and currently detained because on political grounds and in disregard of the Constitution that guarantees the freedom and irremovability of magistrates, pres

Summary of facts

Juge Mohamed Cheick Souleiman - Djibouti

After the third term of Omar Guelleh as President of the Republic of Djibouti, several protests against the government have raised across the country. Numerous demonstrators, political opponents, Human rights defenders and trade union members have been violently repressed; notably by judicial means (arrest, detention, torture).

Within this context, the Judge Mohamed Cheick Souleiman is acquainted with the case, in his jurisdiction, of 40 young political opponents. He decided to annul proceedings against them because of arbitrary arrest and detention.
As a result of this, he was demoted and transferred to the public service under the order of the former Minister of Justice.
This decision infringes the principle of irremovability of magistrates guaranteed by articles 71, 72 and 73 of the 1992 Constitution.
On 21st November 2011, he was arrested at his home by the police forces under the order of the public prosecutor’s office. It seems that this arrest is linked to the publication of a leaflet calling for an opposition demonstration on 22nd November.
On the same day, two journalists, Houssein Robleh Dabar and Farah Abadid Hildid, were also arrested for possession of the leaflet in question. They were detained and tortured. Nowadays, they are being prosecuted. They were brought before the Supreme Court on December 13th.

Judge Mohamed Cheick Souleiman was heard by the Department of Public Prosecution on November 24th.

He was detained in a non-official police custody facility and without a preliminary investigation until November 25th when he was transferred to Gabode prison. The duration of his detention exceeded the legal deadline of 48 hours provided for by the law.

He had neither access to legal counsel nor a doctor and he was tortured.
While being incarcerated, he submitted an application in order to get two officially appointed lawyers.
He received no reply from the member of the Bar, Me Fadouma, regarding his inquiry.
This incarceration runs counter to his immunity as a sitting judge.

On 7th December 2011, he was brought before the Supreme Judicial Council for preliminary sanctions. This hearing did not respect the guarantees laid down in the Organic Law No. n°3/AN/93/3°L on the organisation and functioning of the Supreme Judicial Council, in particular Articles 18 and 19 that stipulates the presence of a legal adviser for any person being tried.

On 9th December 2011, Mohamed Cheick Souleiman refused to appear before the Ministry of Justice and corrections because the Bar had not assigned a lawyer to ensure his defence.
He was struck off, in absentia, by the Supreme Judicial Council.

On 12 December, he was heard by the investigating judge of the Supreme Court, without the presence of a lawyer.

The charges brought against the accused are:
- incitement to rally on public thoroughfare
- directly provoking rebellion
- offence against the President of the Republic
- possession of arms, munitions and war material
These charges seem to have changed during the course of the procedure.

Nowadays, he is still in provisional detention in the prison of Gabode.
This situation contravenes Articles 71, 72 and 73 of the Constitution that provide freedom and irremovability of judges and magistrates. It is also, contrary to Article 10 on presumption of innocence and the rights of defence, as well as to the article 15 on freedom of expression.

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