Geneva — The U.N.’s chief human rights official, Volker Tuerk, is calling for an end to the use of lethal force by Chadian security forces who reportedly killed and wounded dozens of protesters Thursday.
Violent demonstrations broke out in several cities Thursday, protesting the decision by Chad’s military government to delay by two years the handover of power to civilian rule.
Chadian authorities report some 50 people have been killed and nearly 300 injured in clashes between security forces and protesters.
Tuerk’s spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, said a journalist reportedly is among those killed. Additionally, she said her office has received reports that at least 500 people have been arrested.
“The U.N. Human Rights Chad office received information from several sources that early in the morning of the 20th of October, several hundred protesters, mostly young people, started demonstrating in N’Djamena, and that internal security forces used tear gas and fired live ammunition to disperse the protesters,” she said.
Mahamat Idriss Deby, the son of Chad’s former President Idriss Deby, took power after his father was killed a year and a half ago during an operation against rebels. The younger Deby’s transition rule was supposed to have ended Thursday. His refusal to step down and restore civilian rule triggered the current protests.
Shamdasani said the High Commissioner is calling for calm and for all sides to show restraint. In particular, she said defense and security forces must refrain from using force against peaceful protesters. She added that all those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly must be promptly released.
“Today, I understand from colleagues that the situation is calm but tense,” she said. “And this also has to do with the fact that the government announced a suspension of the activities of the political parties that called for the protests. Yes, we are in touch with the government. We have an office in Chad. We have been raising our concerns with them regularly.”
Shamdasani said the human rights office is monitoring the situation and will continue to do so. At the same time, she said the High Commissioner is calling on Chadian state institutions to conduct impartial, prompt, and effective investigations into alleged human rights violations.