Niger: The African Commission must act for a human rights approach in the African Union’s handling of the political and security situation

Press release
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Niamey, Paris - 20 April 2021 - As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR, African Commission) prepares to consider the State of Niger report in the context of its 68th ordinary session, The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Association nigérienne pour la défense des droits de l’Homme (ANDDH) call on the Commission – as the main instrument for the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa – to play its full role in implementing a human rights-based approach to the violence and the multi-faceted crisis experienced by the people of Niger.

On 21 April 2021, the African Commission will review the human rights situation in Niger, on the basis of the last periodic report submitted by the State, in accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter - ratified by Niger - and in line with Articles 45 and 46 enshrining the African Commission’s prerogatives. Our organisations remain concerned about the political, human rights, and security situation in Niger. The country is going through an ambiguous post-electoral period, marked by a democratic political changeover - made official by the election of Mohamed Bazoum as President of the Republic on 2 April - and by an electoral protest that continues on the part of the political opposition, against a backdrop of violations of fundamental freedoms and attacks on human rights defenders and journalists.

"Throughout 2020 and the last few months in Niger, our organisations have denounced the attacks suffered by many journalists and human rights defenders who have seen their freedoms restricted, been arrested, arbitrarily detained, and judicially harassed. The new authorities in power must put an end to all these attacks and violations of fundamental freedoms and make the strengthening of civic and democratic space a priority. This is one of the conditions for the re-establishment of a democratic, inclusive and peaceful political dialogue."

Mabassa Fall, FIDH’s Representative to the African Union

On the security aspects, our organisations are concerned about the sharp increase in terrorist attacks since the beginning of 2021, which have caused hundreds of civilian victims, including children, in several regions of the country. On 2 January 2021, Tchoma Bongou and Zarmadarey, two villages in the Tillabéri region, were simultaneously attacked, resulting in more than 100 deaths among the civilian population. At the end of March 2021, two other attacks were carried out against populations in the same region of Tillabéri (in the village of Banibangou) and Tahoua (in the village of Tillia), resulting in more than 200 deaths. Finally, still in the Tillabéri region, on 17 April 2021 Gaygorou, more than 19 people lost their lives due to a terrorist attack. In addition to this, the high level of insecurity weighs on the civilian population in the eastern part of the country as a result of the presence of Boko Haram for several years, the most recent attack taking place on 15 April 2021, when the terrorist sect carried out an attack in Mainé Soroa in the Diffa region, killing the chief brigadier of the customs and border control service.

In view of the heavy toll of these attacks, our organisations are concerned about the worsening insecurity and the inadequacy of measures to protect Niger’s civilian population, which has very little access to basic public services, particularly those related to health, education and social and economic support. "These horrific attacks in Niger further illustrate the failure of a counter-terrorism strategy guided by a security approach that prioritises military operations and "neutralising the terrorists." It is urgent to adopt a more holistic approach, not only in political rhetoric but also in actions to promote the comprehensive and sustainable security of the Nigerien population," says Sita Adamou, President of ANDDH in Niger.

Furthermore, our organisations are concerned about the fate of migrant populations in northern Niger. Many Nigerien citizens and nationals of other neighbouring countries are confronted with obstacles to their right to move freely and safely within the territory by the Nigerien police forces, despite the fact that this right is enshrined in Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 3 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its revised version signed in Cotonou in July 1993.

Thus, and prior to the specific examination of the situation in Niger, our organisations recommend that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights:
Put an end to all infringements and restrictions of fundamental freedoms; guarantee respect for human rights; and put in place all conditions for a free, inclusive, democratic, and peaceful political and social dialogue. Encourage the new Nigerien government to place the protection of civilians at the heart of its priorities in order to address the security crisis that Niger has been experiencing for several years.
Encourage the new government of Niger to focus on the root causes of this instability, including ensuring the realisation of the economic, social, and cultural rights of the population and developing an effective policy to combat impunity.
Encourage the new government of Niger to take the necessary measures to effectively guarantee the free movement of people and goods throughout its territory, particularly for refugee and internally displaced populations fleeing terrorism.

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