Head of state: Mahamadou Issoufou (replaced Salou Djibo in April)
Head of government: Brigi Rafini (replaced Mahamadou Danda in April)
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 16.1 million
Life expectancy: 54.7 years
Under-5 mortality: 160.3 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 28.7 per cent
Two political leaders and 10 military officers were detained for several months without trial. Niger accepted high-ranking Libyan officials "on humanitarian grounds" while stating that it would respect its commitments to the International Criminal Court if any official named in arrest warrants entered its territory. Several foreign nationals were taken hostage or remained held by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and two were killed during a failed rescue operation.
In March, Mahamadou Issoufou was elected President, ending the interim government led by a military junta which had ousted President Mamadou Tandja in 2010.
As a result of the unrest and armed conflict in Libya, more than 200,000 nationals from Niger returned home, creating a difficult humanitarian situation.
Clashes in the north of Niger were reported throughout the year between security forces and armed elements of AQIM. The Niger government stated that AQIM was obtaining arms smuggled from Libya. Niger announced in May that it would strengthen security co-operation with Mali, Mauritania and Algeria. In November, the Niger armed forces destroyed a convoy of heavy weapons on its way from Libya to Mali.
Detention without trial
Two political leaders and 10 military officers were detained for several months. At the end of the year at least three remained held without trial.
In January, former President Tandja, who had been under house arrest since he was ousted from power in 2010, was charged with embezzlement and imprisoned. Provisionally released in May, he had not been tried by the end of the year. The former Minister of Interior, Albadé Abouba, who had been under house arrest since February 2010, was released without charge in March.
In July, 10 military officers accused of plotting against the authorities were arrested and detained for several days before being released. In September, two high-ranking officials, Colonel Abdoulaye Badié and Lieutenant-Colonel Hamadou Djibo, were arrested and accused of writing and distributing a leaflet criticizing the promotion of some military officers. Both were released without charge in November.
Abuses by armed groups
Several foreign nationals were taken hostage or were still held by AQIM and two were killed during an attempted rescue operation.
In January, two French citizens were abducted in the capital, Niamey, and were killed the following day during a failed rescue operation on the border with Mali involving forces from France and Niger. Three gendarmes (paramilitary police) of Niger, as well as a number of alleged members of AQIM, were reportedly killed during the attack. AQIM claimed responsibility for the abductions.
In February, three of the seven people who were abducted by AQIM in the town of Arlit in September 2010 were released. One French national, one Togolese and one Malagasy were released while the four others – all French nationals – were still held at the end of the year.
In September, several high-ranking officials of Colonel al-Gaddafi's Libyan government, including one of his sons, Saadi Gaddafi, who was subject to sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, entered Niger where they were accepted on "humanitarian grounds" and placed "under surveillance". At the end of the year, none had been named in arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court.
Despite requests by the Libyan National Transitional Council, Niger refused to return the men to Libya while stressing that they would abide by their international commitments towards international justice in case of an international extradition request.
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