In February, a Tuareg-led armed opposition movement, the Niger People’s Movement for Justice (Mouvement des Nigériens pour la justice, MNJ), based in the Agadez region (in the north of the country) staged an uprising to demand better implementation of the peace agreement that put an end to the Tuareg insurrection in 1995. The demands in particular focused on the social and economic provisions of the agreement. MNJ armed groups attacked mining interests in Niger’s mineral-rich north, killed more than 40 soldiers and kidnapped dozens of others.
In August, President Mamadou Tandja, declared a three-month state of emergency in Agadez. This gave additional powers to the security forces to arrest and detain suspects beyond the statutory 48-hours garde à vue. In November, the state of emergency was extended for a further three months. Despite calls by civil society and political parties to engage in talks with the MNJ, President Mamadou Tandja dismissed the members of this armed movement as “bandits and drug traffickers”.
Arbitrary detention, torture and killings
Dozens of civilians were arrested by the security forces in the Agadez region, and some were allegedly tortured. Many were detained after attacks launched by the MNJ. Most were released after several days or weeks of detention without charge or trial, but at least five, including Issoufou Matachi, a former leader of a Tuareg armed opposition group, were transferred to the capital, Niamey, in September. They remained held at the end of the year.
- In May, three men, aged between 65 and 85, Abtchaw Kunfi, Abbe Kunfi and Kalakoua Immolane, were killed, reportedly by members of the security forces in Tizirzait. The three were thought to have been killed because one of them had a satellite phone which may have raised suspicions of possible links with the MNJ.
- In December, seven men travelling to Agadez by car were arrested by members of the security forces and killed. Their bodies bore numerous signs of torture, including cigarette burns, as well as bullet wounds to the face and chest.
Freedom of expression under attack
The authorities imposed a blackout on media coverage of the northern unrest. They suspended Radio France International (RFI) for one month and the bimonthly newspaper Aïr Info for three months. They also issued formal warnings to several newspapers, including L’Evénement, Libération and L’Opinion.
Two journalists were arrested and charged with having links with the MNJ. Both were prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their peaceful and legitimate activities as journalists.
- In September, Moussa Kaka, director of the privately owned Radio Saraouniya station and Niger correspondent of RFI, was arrested in Niamey and charged with “complicity in undermining the State’s authority”, which is punishable by life imprisonment. This charge was apparently based on the fact that Moussa Kaka had telephone contact with MNJ members while working as a journalist. In November, an investigating judge concluded that the tapped conversations on which the charges were based were obtained illegally. The prosecutor lodged an appeal against this decision which was pending at the end of the year.
- In October, the editor of Aïr Info, Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, was arrested in Niamey and transferred to the Agadez region where he was held incommunicado in army custody for three weeks and then charged with associating with criminal elements for his alleged links with the MNJ.