EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 43/01/97
UA 19/97 Legal concern / Fear of ill-treatment /
Probable prisoners of conscience 17 January 1997
NIGERAt least 100 members and supporters of the Front pour la restauration
et la défense de la démocratie (FRDD), Front for the Restoration
and Defence of Democracy, a coalition of eight opposition parties,
Mahamane Ousmane, former President,leader of the Convention démocratique
et sociale (CDS)
Mahamadou Issoufou, former President of the National Assembly, leader of
the Parti nigérien pour la démocratie et le socialisme (PNDS)
Mamadou Tandja, leader of the Mouvement national pour la société et le
développement (MNSD), the former single party
At least 100 people arrested since 11 January 1997 are being held incommunicado
and without charge in various places of detention in the capital, Niamey, and
throughout Niger. Their lawyers and relatives have been denied access and
information about their exact whereabouts. Amnesty International is concerned
that they may face torture or ill-treatment.
The detainees are members and supporters of several opposition political parties
belonging to the FRDD (see above). They appear to have been arrested solely
as an attempt by the authorities to stop a peaceful national campaign by the
FRDD calling for a return to democracy and free access to the press. The first
arrests took place in Niamey on 11 January 1997 when the security forces broke
up a demonstration called by the FRDD, which they claimed had been banned.
Fifty-eight people were arrested, including nine women who were subsequently
released. Twenty-six people were reportedly injured, one seriously. Although
the demonstration appears to have been peaceful, after it was dispersed some
protestors were reported to have blockaded the roads and set tyres on fire.
The government has accused the FRDD of planning a campaign to destabilize the
country and dozens of opposition members and supporters were reported to have
been arrested in Niamey and other towns in the hours and days following the
demonstration. They included Mahamane Ousmane, former President, Mahamadou
Issoufou, former President of the National Assembly, and Mamadou Tandja, leader
of the MNDS (see above). Initially held under house arrest, the three were
moved to an unknown place of detention on 14 January.
None of those arrested appears to have been charged and they continue to be
held incommunicado beyond the normal 48 hours’ legal limit of garde à vue,
the period after which detainees must be referred to a judicial authority.
On 14 January the government announced that Mahamane Ousmane, Mahamadou Issoufou
and Mamadou Tandja would be tried by a state security court for atteinte à
la sûreté de l’Etat et renversement du régime, threatening the security of
the state and overthrowing the regime. This special court was established
by legislation in 1974 which also allows for detention without charge for up
to two months. The state security court was re-established by presidential
decree on 14 January and its members were sworn in on 17 January.
There has been a serious decline in the human rights situation in Niger since
27 January 1996 when Colonel Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara overthrew the
democratically elected government of President Mahamane Ousmane in a military