Chad abolishes the death penalty and introduces further innovative counter-terrorism reforms with the support of UNODC 


N'DJAMENA After two years of rigorous consultations aimed at amending the country's anti-terrorism laws, the Chadian parliament unanimously voted to abolish the death penalty for acts of terrorism on 28 April. The law (in French & Arabic)  was promulgated by President Idriss Déby on 20 May, 2020.

The abolition of the death penalty is only one aspect of the human rights reforms underway in the Sahelian country, made possible thanks to the support and legal expertise of UNODC.

As part of the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel, UNODC, through its programmes for the Sahel and for the prevention of terrorism, has provided technical assistance to the Government of Chad in the form of legislative drafting workshops, supported by awareness-raising among civil servants, parliamentarians, magistrates and law enforcement officials.

"The adoption of the law, including the abolition of the death penalty, is a major step forward for the Government of Chad," said Abdou Hamani, counter-terrorism expert at UNODC. "We encourage the Parliament to play its role in the effective implementation of the law. To this end, we can assure the Chadian authorities of UNODC's readiness to support them in the implementation of the law," he added.

Although the new law is abolitionist, it maintains life imprisonment as the maximum penalty under the Penal Code, and introduces other major innovations, said the judge at the High Court of N'Djamena Moumassou Djoufoulsou.

"The abolition of the death penalty can also be seen as a positive signal for terrorists who wish to surrender since they no longer fear execution even if they are prosecuted," he added.

Judge Djoufoulsou was directly involved in the recent consultations carried out by UNODC as investigating judge in charge of terrorism cases. "Working with UNODC has greatly improved the judicial system," he said. "It has strengthened the capacity of actors in the criminal justice chain to investigate, prosecute and try terrorist offences in a manner consistent with respect for human rights," he added.

 Moumassou Djoufoulsou, Investigating judge in charge of terrorist cases in Tchad 

These include the introduction of clearer terminology and definitions for an act of terror, incitement and apology of terrorist acts. The duration of police custody, which was previously 30 days, renewable twice, has been reduced to 15 days, renewable once only - with the authorization of the public prosecutor (article 33, paragraph 1).  The guarantees relating to the right of defence contained in the provisions of article 50 of the Penal Code  have been enshrined - a guarantee that did not exist in the former text of 2015. 

Another addition to the 2020 law is the requirement for a medical certificate for offenders in custody at the preliminary investigation stage. This provision provides guarantees of respect for the right of the individual not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment while in police custody on the premises of the investigation services in order to obtain a confession (article 35).  

In the course of its assistance, UNODC organized several training workshops for criminal justice actors on the international legal framework against terrorism, human rights and international cooperation.

UNODC also carried out numerous advocacy and awareness-raising activities with the highest authorities on the abolition of the death penalty, both in terms of respect for human rights and in terms of effective law enforcement on issues such as international cooperation. The workshops also covered areas such as inter-ministerial cooperation and international judicial and police cooperation, in which the special services and the army also participated.


 Judge Djoufoulsou during a workshop


Study tours were made possible with the support of UNODC and provided an opportunity for magistrates and investigators from the counter-terrorism judicial unit to learn about some good practices. The investigative judges concerned were able to visit some prisons in the interior of the country to hear the accused in order to speed up the processing of cases.

"The adoption of Law 2020 is to the credit of UNODC, without whose support Chad could not have achieved this result," said Judge Djoufoulsou. "The abolition of the death penalty will position Chad as a country that respects human rights and can promote cooperation with other States to effectively combat terrorism".