Inquiry in Chad finds 44 prisoners died in hot, overcrowded cell

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An investigation into the death of 44 prisoners who all died in one night inside Chad’s prison, has concluded that it is a result of scorching hot temperatures, overcrowding, thirst and hunger.

Previously, prosecutors involved in the case suggested the suspects were Boko Haram militants who committed mass suicide by taking poison.

However, the National Human Rights Commission insists they were civilians.

Their report described a dangerously overcrowded cell where temperature can reach up to 46 degrees Celcius.

Chad’s Justice Minister Djimet Arabi told AFP he had taken note of the Commission’s report and that an inquiry had been launched to determine who was responsible for the deaths.

The 44 prisoners were found dead in their cell on the outskirts of the capital N’Djamena on the morning of April 15.

Prosecutors said at the time that the men were part of a group of 58 suspects captured during a major army operation against the Islamist militants Boko Haram around Lake Chad.

The public prosecutor said 40 of the prisoners were buried and four were taken to a pathologist who found traces of poison.

Mr. Arabi had also suggested that it could have been a case of collective suicide and denied they had been ill-treated.

The independent commission’s report tells a very different story.

Firstly, it said the prisoners were not militants but farmers and villagers who were arbitrarily arrested.

It also points out that the army operation against Boko Haram – which ran between March 23 and April 08 – was already over when the suspects were picked up.

It then described the overcrowded, scorching conditions in the cell, where survivors say the only food they were given were a few dates, not enough to go around the group.

The 14 survivors told the commission that, in the heat, some started falling to the ground, while others called out to the guards for help but were ignored.

“The jailers did not deign to give assistance to anyone in danger in these conditions despite cries of distress and prayers recited all night,” the report said, according to AFP.

The military offensive against Boko Haram militants was launched after 98 Chadian soldiers were killed on March 23 at their base on the banks of Lake Chad.

The army said they killed more than 1,000 militants in its eight-day operation to flush out militants from hideouts on the islands in the lake.

On Saturday President Idriss Deby insisted that there are now no Boko Haram fighters left in Chad.

But he went on to say that he is expecting a long fight against the jihadists because of anticipated cross-border raids from Nigeria and Niger. (Source: BBC)

 

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