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Amnesty International Condemns Prisoner Treatment in Chad

LONDON — Prisoners in Chad are forced to endure harsh living conditions that threaten their basic human rights, according to a new Amnesty International report. Chadian authorities have not responded to the report that follows previous criticism of the Chad's justice and penal systems.

Convicts in Chad's prisons face living conditions that break Chadian and international law, says Amnesty International. The rights group says more than 12 incidents of severe abuse, including nine deaths, have been documented.

“The prisoners do not have access to food, they do not have access to basic medical stuff," said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Chad researcher. "They do not have any protection of their own rights when violations are committed by not only prison staff, but also other prisoners.”

Amnesty International says the prisoners are not fed regularly and when they receive food, it is of poor quality.

It says prisoners also eat from collective plates. In these cases the weaker prisoners may eat nothing at all because there is not enough for everyone.

The report says hygiene, sanitation and water supplies are another concern. It says sanitary systems have been blocked for years in some prisons and stagnant sewage in prison yards poses serious health risks to prisoners and staff.

Mukosa says the conditions have escaped the attention of Chadian officials, largely because no one is in the prisons making sure that human-rights laws are enforced.

University of Pretoria African human-rights law lecturer Magnus Killander said the problem is in putting Chadian law into practice.

“I think there is a need clearly for training, for changing attitudes. They have the law, it might be lacking in some respects, [but] the problem is in implementation. For example there would be a need to strengthen the monitoring bodies, judicial inspectorates and things like that,” said Killander.

The Amnesty report said prison guards are mostly immune to investigation and prosecution when violations are committed.

“Those who are suspected of being involved in human rights violations remain in their positions and nothing was done by the authorities and in this report we asked the authorities," said Mukosa. "The Chadian authorities need to make sure investigations are opened in any case of human rights violations, including those committed by prison guards.”

Under a U.N. mandate, the international community, including the European Union, has been involved in efforts to improve Chad’s justice system for more than four years. Mukosa said the efforts will fail if the Chadian authorities do not support changes.

“The initiative from the international community, for instance the European Union, which has some projects in Chad to improve the judiciary and the judicial system, all those efforts would be in vain if there is no real political will from the Chadian authorities,” said Mukosa.

Amnesty is calling for Chad's government to ensure prison conditions are in line with domestic and international law, and to investigate all human-rights violations committed in its prisons.