Djiboutian national Arreh Souleiman Aouled detained in Somaliland for criticising Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh

Djiboutian national Arreh Souleiman Aouled detained in Somaliland for criticising Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh

Arreh Aouled is a Djiboutian national who has been living in Gabilay, Somaliland, for the past four years. He was charged with defamation of Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh. Although he is currently being held in pre-trial detention at Gabiley Police Station, it is feared that Aouled is currently at risk of being forcibly transferred to Djibouti.

On May 20, 2022, Arreh Aouled, a social activist known for his critiques of the Djiboutian government, was arrested by members of the Somaliland police without being presented with a warrant or being informed of the reasons for his arrest.

The next day, the Human Rights Center for Somaliland expressed concerns regarding Somaliland’s practice of deportation to Djibouti and asked for his immediate release.

On May 23, 2022, Aouled was brought before the Gabiley Regional Court. On that same day, it was alleged that a helicopter was sent to Hargeisa, Somalia, by the Djiboutian authorities to return him to Djibouti.

His custody was extended several times and on June 13, 2022, Aouled was, for the first time since his arrest, charged with using abusive language against Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh under article 451(2) of the Somaliland Criminal Code.

This accusation is based on a short live video broadcast on Aouled’s Facebook page, in which he made comments on President Guelleh’s politics and so appears to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression and opinion under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Aouled remains detained and was last presented before the Gabiley Regional Court on June 16, 2022.

If returned to Djibouti, Aouled would be at high risk of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment due to his criticism of the country's government. Considering the existence of foreseeable, real and personal risks as well as the violation to Aouled’s right to freedom of expression and opinion, MENA Rights Group submitted an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on June 20, 2022.

The Somaliland authorities should commit not to return Mr Aouled to Djibouti and respect Mr Aouled’s right to freedom of expression and opinion, as enshrined in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Timeline

June 20, 2022: MENA Rights Group submits an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
June 16, 2022: Aouled is presented before the Gabiley Regional Court.
June 13, 2022: Aouled is charged with using abusive language against Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh under article 451(2) of Somaliland Criminal Code.
May 23, 2022: Aouled is brought before the Gabiley Regional Court for the first time and is remanded to three additional days in custody.
May 20, 2022: Arreh Souleiman Aouled is arrested by officers of the Somaliland police in Gabiley.

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