Armed conflict continued, particularly in the southeastern region of Diffa where most attacks were carried out by the armed group Boko Haram. Over 300,000 people needed humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict and the continuing state of emergency in the Diffa region. Over 1,400 suspected Boko Haram members were in prison, most held in lengthy pre-trial detention in poor conditions and at risk of torture. The rights of refugees and migrants travelling through Niger were violated.
President Issoufou was re-elected in March after an election that was boycotted by the main opposition parties. His principal opponent, Hama Amadou, was in detention during the election charged with complicity in kidnapping; he was released shortly after the election.
Niger was examined under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process and accepted almost all of the recommendations, including those relating to abolition of the death penalty, protection of human rights defenders, measures to eradicate traditional harmful practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and guaranteeing the right to food. Niger rejected one recommendation on ensuring participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making.
Abuses by armed groups
Civilians, including refugees from Nigeria, continued to be affected by armed conflict, most of it concentrated in the Diffa region. The exact number of civilian casualties could not be determined; the UN estimated that at least 177 civilians had been killed since February 2015. Boko Haram carried out more than 50 attacks in the Diffa region in 2016.
Other armed groups were active in western areas bordering Mali. In October, an unidentified group attacked the refugee camp of Tazalit, Tahoua region; and a US aid worker was abducted in Abalak, Tahoua region. On 17 October, a group calling itself Islamic State attacked the high-security detention centre in Koutoukalé, near Niamey, Tillabériregion.
Internally displaced people
More than 300,000 displaced people needed humanitarian assistance in the Diffa region by the end of the year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This included more than 184,000 internally displaced people from Niger, 29,000 returning Niger nationals and 88,000 Nigerian refugees. Many lived in harsh conditions in makeshift camps. Insecurity impeded access to basic commodities and services, including food, water and education, and the continuing state of emergency hampered economic activity.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
Niger hosted more than 60,000 refugees from Mali in the Tillabériand Tahoua regions, who also needed assistance.
The number of people transiting through Niger trying to reach Europe continued to grow, with Agadez the principal transit hub for West Africans. In October, a survey by the International Organization for Migration reported that 70% of people arriving in Italy by boat – many of whom had travelled through Niger – had been a victim of trafficking or exploitation, including thousands of women and girls forced into prostitution in Libya or Europe. Despite an anti-trafficking law passed in 2015, there was limited action to prevent trafficking in Niger.
An undetermined number of people died during dangerous journeys through the desert in Niger. In June, 14 adults and 20 children were found dead in the desert after they left the town of Tahoua aiming to reach Algeria.
In October, the UN Committee on Migrant Workers highlighted several concerns, including forced labour of migrant workers, including children, particularly as domestic labour and in the mines.
Counter-terror and security
More than 1,400 people accused of being members of Boko Haram remained in detention, many charged under Niger’s anti-terror law. Most had been arrested in the Diffa region since 2013, although some had been detained since 2012. Among them were Nigerians, including refugees from areas affected by Boko Haram. The vast majority remained held in lengthy pre-trial detention. In June, the Prosecutor responsible for terrorism cases said that most arrests followed denunciations, and that insecurity and the state of emergency in Diffa region had prevented effective investigations.
In June, the authorities said that they planned to extradite to Nigeria all adult Nigerian detainees to reduce prison overcrowding and because Nigeria was better placed to investigate their nationals. The plan was formally announced in September. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in Nigeria, particularly against people accused of supporting Boko Haram.
The authorities announced that the Code of Criminal Procedure was to be amended to extend pre-charge detention in police custody (garde à vue) from 5 to 15 days, renewable for a further 15 days.
Prison conditions remained poor despite steps taken to monitor them. The large number of people arrested for alleged links with Boko Haram aggravated the problem. During the year, Koutoukalé detention centre held more than twice its capacity of 250 detainees, including around 400 Boko Haram suspects.
The fate of eight people arrested by security forces in May 2015 remained unclarified. El Hadj Kannaï Kouliyi, Malam Bandama, Ari Kannai, Abor Madou, Awa Malloumi, El Hadj Katchouloumi, Mouché Ali Kou Lawan Dalla and El Hadji Bara were arrested in N'Guigmi, Diffa region. The families’ request for information about their relatives’ whereabouts were left unanswered.
Freedom of expression
Some people were prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
In June, Ousmane Moumouni, President of Action for Democracy and Human Rights in Niger, was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for “plotting to change the constitution” after posting a message on Facebook about Niger’s security situation following a Boko Haram attack.
Also in June, journalists Ali Soumana and Moussa Dodo were handed a three-month suspended sentence for “putting pressure on the judiciary”. They had published in Le Courrier newspaper a list of people accused of trying to influence a national exam. The list included influential people such as the President of the Constitutional Court. The journalists were prosecuted under the Penal Code, not the Press Law, which made the punishment harsher.