Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 15:02 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2015/16 - Niger

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 24 February 2016
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2015/16 - Niger, 24 February 2016, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/56d05b2a15.html [accessed 21 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Republic of Niger
Head of state: Mahamadou Issoufou
Head of government: Brigi Rafini

The armed group Boko Haram committed crimes under international law, escalating the conflict and leading to an increase in the number of people displaced. The authorities introduced a state of emergency in Diffa region. Human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested. The government restricted freedom of expression. Thousands of refugees were deported back to Nigeria.

BACKGROUND

Boko Haram (which changed its name in April to Western African Province of the Organisation of the Islamic State) intensified its attacks against civilians, mainly in the southeastern Diffa region bordering Nigeria and Lake Chad. The resulting displacement and destruction, in addition to measures taken by the government in response, had a major impact on the economy of the region, causing severe food shortages. Following an attempted coup in December, nine soldiers were arrested and will be tried before a military tribunal.

ARMED CONFLICT

Boko Haram carried out more than 20 attacks against civilian objects and army positions in Diffa region killing at least 190 civilians and 60 security force members.

In April, Boko Haram members attacked the Isle de Karamga, surrounding the island with boats at night and shooting dead 28 civilians and 46 soldiers. There were further attacks in Diffa region between June and December, including suicide bombings.

The security forces carried out reprisal attacks and arrested more than 1,000 people. In February, the Nigerien army bombed a convoy of trucks carrying smoked fish to Nigeria, a trade banned under the state of emergency as it is believed to be a source of food and revenue for Boko Haram.

In February, at least 36 civilians were killed in the village of Abadam-Niger, on the Nigerian border, when an unidentified military plane bombed a funeral party.

In September, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concerns about attacks on civilians by both Boko Haram and the Nigerien army.

SECURITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

The impact of abuses committed by armed groups was exacerbated by the state's response, notably forced displacement and restrictions on freedom of movement.

In February, the government decreed a state of emergency in the entire Diffa region. It was extended for three months in May and reinstated in October. The state of emergency prohibited the circulation of vehicles with two wheels, or registered in Nigeria, as well as sales of pepper and fish. In July, after suicide attacks involving women wearing burqas, the authorities prohibited veils covering the cheeks. In July, an imam who protested against this measure was detained without charge for two days.

According to OHCHR, the Ministries of Interior and Defence interfered in the judicial process, leading to the rearrest of Boko Haram suspects acquitted for lack of evidence. The same ministries refused to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by the army, claiming that this could demoralize troops.

OHCHR also expressed concern about the arrest in July of 40 children in Diffa region and their detention in Koutoukale and Kollo prisons before they were transferred to the juvenile section in Niamey prison.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Freedom of expression was severely restricted, sometimes in the name of national security.

In June, two newspapers, L'Actualité and L'Opinion, were banned from publishing for one month for "violating the journalists' charter". The Superior Council for Communication gave no further explanation.

In May, Moussa Tchangari, Secretary General of Alternative Citizens' Spaces, was arrested while taking food to eight village chiefs in Diffa region who had been arrested for "failure to cooperate with the authorities in the fight against Boko Haram". His organization had criticized the government's failure to protect human rights in view of Boko Haram attacks. He was provisionally released after 10 days.[1]

Nouhou Azirka, President of the Movement for the Promotion of Responsible Citizenship, was detained in police custody for "endangering national defence" in May. He had stated in a television interview that soldiers in Diffa region had complained of poor working conditions. He was provisionally released after four days.[2]

In November, five journalists were arrested, including Souleymane Salha, journalist of the weekly Le Courrier. He was released without charge after 10 days.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE AND REFUGEES

The number of refugees and displaced people rose significantly, exacerbating the humanitarian situation, particularly in the south. By the end of the year, Niger was host to more than 115,000 people displaced by conflict in Nigeria, Libya and Mali, and to more than 100,000 internally displaced people and returnees.

In April, the Governor of Diffa ordered the evacuation of islands on Lake Chad, following a Boko Haram attack. At least 14 people died from hunger, thirst and heat during the long march to the camp of N'guigmi. Soldiers reportedly prevented them from being transported to the camp by local carriers and essential resources such as water and food were lacking when they arrived.

In January and May, the army forced thousands of refugees back to Nigeria, accusing them of bringing Boko Haram attacks to the area.

PRISON CONDITIONS

Prisons remained very overcrowded. Civil society groups reported that at the end of 2014, 1,000 people were held in Niamey civilian prison, which has a capacity of 350.


[1] Niger: The fight against Boko Haram must not serve as an excuse to violate freedom of expression (News story, 19 May); Urgent Action, Human rights defenders held without charge (AFR 43/1716/2015)

[2] Urgent Action: Human rights defenders held without charge (AFR 43/1716/2015)

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