Resolution adopted without a vote by the Inter-Parliamentary Council
at its 163rd session (Moscow, 12 September 1998)

The Inter-Parliamentary Council,

Referring to the outline of the case, as contained in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/163/12(a)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 162nd session (April 1998) concerning the case of Mr. Ngarléjy Yorongar, of Chad,

Taking account of the letters from the President of the National Assembly dated 2, 22 and 31 July and 5 August 1998, and of the letters from the Minister of Justice dated 29 July and 7 August 1998,

Also taking account of the communications from the sources,

Recalling that Mr. Yorongar, a member of the National Assembly of Chad belonging to the opposition and one of the most vocal critics of an oil project carried out in his region by an international consortium made up of Elf, Esso and Shell, criticised in particular the way in which the project was managed by those close to the Head of State, Mr. Idress Déby, and denounced - first during the presidential campaign in June and July 1996 - Elf's reported financing of the electoral campaign of Mr. Déby and Mr. Kamougué, now Presidents of the Republic and of the National Assembly, respectively,

Recalling that, on 7 August 1997, the Prosecutor General submitted two requests to the National Assembly for the lifting of Mr. Yorongar's parliamentary immunity in order to permit his prosecution for contempt and insulting the Head of State and for complicity in slandering the President of the National Assembly and the institution which he represents,

Recalling further that a letter dated 25 June 1997 from Mr. Yorongar to the Prime Minister about the oil project originated the first request; that an article published in the 9 July 1997 issue of the periodical " L'Observateur " on a lecture-debate held by Mr. Yorongar on 5 July 1997 gave rise to the second request; that Mr. Yorongar is quoted as having stated that the President of the National Assembly had reportedly received from Elf the sum of 1.5 billion CFA francs (1,500,000,000),

Considering that, after several postponements of the decision, the National Assembly finally voted on 26 May 1998 to lift Mr. Yorongar's immunity; that on 2 June Mr. Yorongar was called for questioning together with the author of the allegedly offending article and the Director of " L'Observateur " and that they were all arrested the next day, Mr. Yorongar on charges of complicity and defamation,

Considering that the case was first heard on 5 June 1998, when the defence raised several preliminary points of law and inter alia challenged the judge, pointing out that, at the time the complaints were lodged, he was a member of the prosecution and thus, under Chadian law, disqualified from hearing the case; that the Court of Appeal dismissed the application to challenge the judge on 11 June and that a second hearing took place on 12 June 1998,

Considering that at that hearing the defence raised another preliminary point of law, namely the absence of duly signed and approved records of the lifting of Mr. Yorongar's immunity as required under Article 58 of the National Assembly's Standing Orders; that the court referred the case to the Constitutional Chamber of the Court of Appeal while keeping Mr. Yorongar in detention and releasing his co-accused; that, on 13 July 1998, the Constitutional Chamber ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to deal with the matter,

Considering that, taking the view that Mr. Yorongar and the others had suffered arbitrary arrest, the lawyers introduced in June 1998 an application to the Chamber of Accusation of the Court of Appeal for the purpose of securing their release; that, according to the sources, the judge only sent the file to the Court of Appeal after being enjoined to do so by the President of the Court on 30 June. However, while the Court was due to decide the case on 17 July, the Public Prosecutor reportedly " snatched " the file from the Court and set the hearing for 16 July 1998,

Considering that, at the hearing of 16 July, the lawyers once more demanded the records of the lifting of Mr. Yorongar's parliamentary immunity, which the judge reportedly refused to communicate to them on the grounds that it was a confidential document; that, since the lawyers walked out in view of that attitude, the judge decided to postpone the hearing until 20 July to enable the parties to obtain a copy of those records; that, however, no such copy was ever supplied to them,

Considering that Mr. Yorongar refused to take part in what he regarded as a mascarade of a trial, that the other two accused refused to speak for the same reason and that the defence counsel walked out because they had not obtained a copy of the records in question and were, moreover, denied the floor by the judge; that consequently, according to the sources, the lawyers of Mr. Déby and Mr. Kamougué were the only ones to plead,

Considering that, according to the sources, the Public Prosecutor called for an unsuspended prison term of two years and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs for Mr. Yorongar and acquittal for his co-accused; that, however, the judge, finding Mr. Yorongar guilty of having defamed the President of the Republic and the President of the National Assembly, sentenced him to an unsuspended term of three years in prison and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs; that his co-accused were given suspended prison terms of two years and fined 1,000,000 CFA francs each,

Considering that, according to the sources, the sentence handed down on Mr. Yorongar is unrelated to the maximum statutory sentence for these offences, which is two years, and that the maximum fine set for the offence is 500,000 CFA francs; that, according to the Minister of Justice, this was incorrect as Article 47(2) of the Law on the Press makes defamation punishable by up to three years in prison when intended to arouse hatred or incite violence among persons belonging to an ethnic group, a region or a religion, and " Mr. Yorongar's letter incriminating the Head of State, his family and his clan does indeed fall within the purview of this provision ... ",

Considering that an appeal has been lodged,

Considering that Mr. Yorongar's already precarious health has suffered from the harsh prison conditions; that since 8 September 1998, he has reportedly been denied any visits; recalling also the fears for Mr. Yorongar's personal safety,

Noting that, in its resolution on Chad adopted on 18 June 1998, the European Parliament called for the immediate release of Mr. Yorongar and urged the Chadian Government to respect democratic discussions on the country's situation and on the planned oil project in the Doba region,

Considering finally that, in his message of 2 July 1998, the President of the National Assembly stated that the Committee's sources of information were conveying often false and biased information and that, for that reason, he had ceased to co-operate with it; that, however, he wished to restore honest co-operation with the Committee and invited the Inter-Parliamentary Union to that end to send an on-site mission to gather impartial and objective information on the case; that he reiterated that invitation in his letters of 31 July and 5 August 1998, refraining from providing any further information pending the Committee's mission,

  1. Thanks the Minister of Justice for his co-operation and, in particular, thanks the President of the National Assembly for the invitation to conduct an on-site mission;
  2. Believes that such a mission would indeed enable it to appraise all circumstances of the case and, to this end, entrusts the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians with a mission to gather further information directly from the parliamentary and other competent authorities, the parliamentarian concerned and his defence counsel, and from any other source that may be able to supply relevant information;
  3. Is confident that such a mission can be received in Chad in the very near future;
  4. Meanwhile can but express its deep concern at the serious allegations regarding the conduct of the judicial proceedings and the judgment handed down on Mr. Yorongar and his co-accused;
  5. Is also deeply concerned at the conditions of his detention and his state of health, which alone would warrant his immediate release; notes with particular concern that since 8 September 1998 he has reportedly been denied any visits, and urges the authorities to ensure that his family and lawyers are allowed full access to him and that he receives the medical care he needs;
  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the President of the National Assembly;
  7. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining the case and report to it at its next session (April 1999).

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