News: Joint Press Release: Niger – Diplomatic representatives must act for the immediate release of arrested human rights defenders

Organisations including Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Publish you pay, and Tournons La Page are urging diplomatic representatives in Niger to firmly condemn human rights abuses and restrictions on civic space by asking for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders detained for exercising their right to peaceful protest.

In a joint open letter, local and international civil society organizations express their deep concern over the arrest of Nigerien human rights defenders by security forces on Sunday, March 25 and April 15, 2018. The arrests took place in connection with demonstrations organized by civil society to call for the repeal of the 2018 finance law which according to civil society in Niger would drastically increase the cost of living and increase the risk of corruption. The demonstrations were systematically banned by the authorities.

The Nigerien Constitution, and the international laws ratified by Niger uphold the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and expression exercised by our civil society colleagues. Standing up against corruption and tax injustice is not grounds for detention

said Suneeta Kaimal, Chair of the Global Council of Publish What You Pay. Since the launch of ‘Days of Citizen Action’ in January 2018, the has been a crack down on demonstrations and arrests have multiplied. For Andrea Rocca, deputy director of Front Line Defenders

these acts of the government testify to a will to muzzle the defenders of human rights. The authorities must ensure that in all circumstances defenders can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of restrictions, including judicial harassment.

Although the human rights defenders arrested on March 25 did not take part in the demonstrations, the Niamey High Court charged them two days later with “organising and participating in the banned demonstration”, and with “complicity in an act of violence”, “assault and destruction of public property”. They were transferred to various prisons in Niger, often far from their families. On April 15, three other civil society leaders were arrested for the same reasons. Two of them have since been placed under detention while the third one has been released on bail.

In response to this critical situation, civil society organizations are calling for strong and unanimous action by the embassies present in Niamey in support of their demands for the immediate and unconditional release of the imprisoned activists.

The international community can no longer ignore the repeated violations of the fundamental rights of human rights defenders. Without strong action on, the government will feel comfortable implementing repressive policies

said Laurent Duarte, international coordinator of the campaign “Tournons La Page”.

Notes to editors

  • The signatories of the joint open letter include the following civil society organisations and networks: Amnesty International, The Article 20 Network, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC), CIMADE, CIVICUS, Front Line Defenders, Publish What You Pay, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Secours Catholique Caritas France, Tournons La Page, West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), and West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN).
  • The Finance Law for 2018 was adopted by the Parliament in Niger in November 2017. Over the past few months, civil society organisations, through a consultation framework, have been organising peaceful public demonstrations called Days of Citizen Action (DCA) to protest against the new Finance Law. According to civil society organisations, this law would result in income tax reforms and new taxes on housing and electricity which would increase the risk of corruption as well as the cost of living for the poorest.
  • The human rights defenders who were arrested on the 25th of March have since been transferred to prisons in Filingué, Ouallam, Tillaberi, Daikana and Téra which are located between 100 and 200km away from Niamey, making it difficult for family members and colleagues to visit, despite the fact that those visits are often essential for the prisoners well-being. Two of the human rights defenders arrested on 15 April have since been placed under detention and sent to prisons in Say and Kollo.
  • Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. Amnesty campaigns for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.

    Front Line Defenders is an international non governmental organization which provides rapid and practical support to human rights defenders at risk. Front Line Defenders addresses the protection needs identified by HRDs themselves.

    Publish What You Pay (PWYP) is a global network of civil society organisations that are united in their call for an open and accountable extractive industry that contributes to improving the lives of women, men and youth in resource-rich countries.

    Tournons la Page is an international campaign with over 200 civil society organisations active in 7 countries (Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Niger, DRC, Chad) to foster democratic renewal in Africa.

    Press Contacts :

    Amnesty International Sadibou Marong, Bureau régional Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre Tel.+221 77 658 62 27; e-mail: sadibou.marong@amnesty.org

    Front Line Defenders Erin Kilbride, Attachée de presse, Front Line Defenders Tel: +353 (0) 857423767 ; e-mail: erin@frontlinedefenders.org

    Publish What You Pay Asmara Klein, Coordinatrice Initiatives internationales et impact, PCQVP Tel. +45 21228135; e-mail: aklein@publishwhatyoupay.org

    Tournons La Page Laurent DUARTE, coordinateur international Tél : +33 650391783; e-mail: afrique.democratie@secours-catholique.org

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