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Chad: Appeal of case against human rights defender Mr Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet adjourned to 6 June 2012
On 16 May 2012, N'Djamena Court of Appeal was scheduled to hear an appeal in the case of Mr Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet, who is accused of “slanderous denunciation”, a criminal offence that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The hearing was adjourned until 6 June 2012 due to procedural irregularities.
Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet is president of the association Droits de l'Homme Sans Frontières – DHSF (Human Rights Without Borders), based in N'Djamena. DHSF works extensively on the issue of child abduction, which continues to occur regularly in the region of Lere in south-western Chad.
The hearing was postponed due to the fact that after his arrest on 19 December 2011, Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet was transferred to Moussoro to be tried (Moussoro is a jurisdiction situated 300 km from N'Djamena where the case couldn't be heard as the reported offence had not taken place there), and also due to an incorrect arrest procedure by the prosecutor.
The appeal case was due to begin on 2 May 2012, but as Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet had not received any formal summons for the hearing, his lawyer was not present. The court thus postponed the hearing to 9 May 2012. On this day, the failure to include Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet's name on the court's listing of hearings prevented the case from being heard. The court had therefore postponed the hearing to 16 May 2012.
Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet was arrested on 19 December 2011 and detained in a prison located in Moussoro. After three hearings, a judicial decision concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove its allegations beyond any reasonable doubt. The defender was eventually released on 30 December 2011, after spending 12 days in detention. The prosecution appealed the judicial decision arguing that the accusations against Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet were supported by evidence. The defender's defence team filed a counter appeal one week later, seeking the dismissal of the case against him.
The campaign of judicial harassment against Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet began on 3 October 2011, when DHSF released a press statement denouncing the death in detention of ten people arrested in connection with the death of a village chief, who had been notoriously implicated in child abduction cases. On 17 September 2011, police reportedly arrested 47 people. Nine of those individuals died on that day, allegedly as a result of suffocation due to extremely poor detention conditions. A tenth detainee died the following day, 18 September 2011, after being transferred to N'Djamena. DHSF's statement and a subsequent radio interview that Deuzoumbe Daniel Passaletgave gave to Radio France Internationale (RFI) commenting on the incident triggered a series of accusations and threats from the Minister of Land Affairs and State Property, Mr Jean-Bernard Padaré. The Minister reportedly accused DHSF of involvement in politics and threatened to have Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet arrested in the absence of a retraction of his comments and a formal apology.
Front Line Defenders believes that the ongoing campaign of judicial harassment against Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet is solely motivated by DHSF's legitimate and peaceful human rights work, in particular the fight against child abduction in Chad. Front Line Defenders is concerned that the human rights defender could face imprisonment and fears for his physical and psychological integrity.