A group of 44 prisoners have died after being crowded in the same prison cell during a heatwave in Chad.
An investigation has concluded that the prisoners died as a result of scorching hot temperatures, overcrowding, thirst and hunger, between April 14 and April 15, 2020.
Prosecutors involved in the case suggested the suspects were Boko Haram militants, who had taken poison to kill themselves. However, the National Human Rights Commission insists they were civilians.
The 44 prisoners, who were all male, were found dead in their cell, located just outside N’Djamena, on the morning of April 15. They were part of a wider group of 58 men, who were captured during an army operation against Islamist militants Boko Haram.
The investigation heard how 40 of the men were buried and the remaining four were taken to a pathologist, who found traces of poison in their systems.
Chad’s Justice Minister Djimet Arabi said he would take the Commission’s report into consideration, however he also suggested it could have been a mass-suicide, and denied any mistreatment.
The Commission’s report paints a very different picture though, claiming the men were not militants and were instead innocent farmers and villagers who had been randomly arrested, while noting that the operation against Boko Haram was over at the time these particular arrests had been made.
The report goes on to describe horrific and unsanitary conditions of the prison cell under scorching temperatures, which saw some prisoners falling to the ground in weakness.
Of the 14 who survived the ordeal, many of them recall asking the guards for help, but say they 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.
An army operation against Boko Haram was launched following the death of 98 Chadian soldiers, who were killed at their Lake Chad base on March 23.
They claimed to have killed more than 1,000 militants during the eight-day operation designed to flush out the militants from various hideouts around the lake.
As of Saturday, August 8, Chad President Idriss Deby claimed there are now no Boko Haram militants left in the country, though he added he expects further battles against jihadists who may travel over from Nigeria and Niger.
The investigation to determine the blame of the prisoners’ deaths continues.