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TITLE:  NIGER HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                             NIGER


Niger conducted its first multiparty elections in 1993, when a 
coalition of eight parties joined to elect Mahamane Ousmane 
President.  International observers judged both the 
presidential and legislative elections to be free and fair.  
The Alliance of the Forces of Change (AFC), itself a coalition 
of six parties led by Prime Minister Mohamadou Issoufou, held 
50 of the 83 seats in the National Assembly through September 
when Prime Minister Issoufou resigned, withdrawing his party 
from the governing coalition.  A new Constitution, which 
established the Third Republic in 1992, provides for numerous 
freedoms as well as an independent judiciary.

The Tuareg separatist insurgency in the North continued, as 
ethnic minority forces attacked both civilian and military 
targets, killing soldiers as well as noncombatants.  Several 
rounds of negotiations mediated by France, Algeria, and Burkina 
Faso failed to resolve the differences between the Government 
and the insurgents.

Security forces consist of the army, the gendarmerie 
(paramilitary police), and the national police.  Despite the 
experience of almost two decades of military rule up to the 
national conference in 1991, Niger's armed forces backed the 
transition to democratic government and have accepted civilian 
political authority.  On one occasion, troops intervened to 
quell violence inspired by religious differences.  The 
military's security zone in the Tuareg area is reportedly 
established in part to obscure the army's activities from 
public scrutiny.

The economy is made up largely of traditional subsistence 
farming, herding, petty trading, and informal markets.  Uranium 
is the most important export.  Persistent drought, low 
literacy, a declining uranium market, and burdensome debt 
further weakened the already troubled economy.

Government troops continued to abuse human rights.  Clashes 
between security and rebel forces caused civilian deaths.  
Police violated laws governing searches, treatment of 
prisoners, and length of detention.  The overloaded judicial 
system and delays in trials resulted in long periods of 
pretrial confinement.  Societal discrimination and domestic 
violence against women continued to be serious problems; the de 
facto disfranchisement of many women limits their right to 
change their government.  The private press and radio expanded 
during 1994.  Labor unions actively bargained for wages and 
better working conditions, and civic organizations organized 
freely.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Prison officials reportedly tortured and killed two Tuareg men 
in Agadez in May (see Section 1.c.).

Government armed forces killed two Muslim fundamentalists 
during a melee in Bani Bangou.  Fundamentalists had killed 
seven gendarmes who had been sent to arrest their leader and 
later killed one militiaman in the violence that led to the 
deaths of two fundamentalists.  A large force of gendarmes sent 
to respond exercised restraint and negotiated the surrender of 
those suspected of involvement in criminal acts.  Both 
government and insurgent forces killed civilians during clashes 
throughout the year (see Section 1.g.).  The Government 
continued its investigation into the 1990 and 1991 incidents in 
which security forces killed civilians during political 
demonstrations but did not arrest or prosecute anyone by year's 
end, despite its promises to do so.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

During a rebel attack on an electric plant at Tchighozerine in 
August, eight rebels and several defending soldiers were 
reportedly killed (see Section 1.g.).  According to reports, 
gendarmes illegally took into custody the 25 Tuaregs who worked 
at the plant, questioning, beating, and attempting to 
intimidate them.  A company nurse suffered broken ribs.

Prisoners are segregated by sex.  Family visits are allowed, 
and prisoners receive supplemental food and other necessities 
from their families.  There are no reports of unduly harsh 
treatment.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Although the Constitution prohibits arbitrary detention, and 
laws officially prohibit detention without charge in excess of 
48 hours, police violate these provisions in practice.  If 
police fail to gather sufficient evidence within the detention 
period, the prosecutor gives the case to another officer, and a 
new 48-hour detention period begins.

The judicial system is seriously overloaded.  There are no 
statutory limits on pretrial confinement of indicted persons; 
detention frequently lasts months or years.  As many as 80 
percent of prisoners in Niamey are awaiting trial.  The 
government created new regional tribunals to handle civil cases 
on the local level.

The Government held 4 Niger citizens accused of the October 
1993 hijacking of a Nigeria Airways flight for nearly 6 months 
before submitting the case to judicial authorities.  More than 
1 year after the event, they remain in pretrial confinement 
despite the objections of local human rights groups. A fifth 
Nigerien, turned over to Niger by authorities, has also been 
detained for more than a year for investigation of his alleged 
role in masterminding the air piracy.

The law provides for a right to counsel, although there are no 
defense attorneys outside the capital.  A defendant has the 
right to a lawyer immediately upon detention.  The State 
provides a defense attorney for indigents.

Bail is available for crimes carrying a penalty of less than 10 
years' imprisonment.  Widespread ignorance of the law and lack 
of financial means prevent full exercise of these rights.

The Constitution prohibits exile, and there were no reports of 
its use.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary.  
Defendants and prosecutors may appeal a verdict, first to the 
Court of Appeals, then to the Supreme Court.  The Court of 
Appeals reviews questions of fact and law, while the Supreme 
Court reviews only the application of law and constitutional 
questions.

Although the Supreme Court has on occasion asserted its 
independence (see Section 2.b.), human rights groups assert 
that family and business ties influence the lower courts and 
undermine their integrity.  Judges sometimes fear reassignment 
or having their financial benefits reduced if they render a 
decision unfavorable to the Government, though such practices 
are reportedly reduced.

A traditional chief or a customary court try cases involving 
divorce or inheritance.  Customary courts, located only in 
large towns and cities, are headed by a legal practitioner with 
basic legal education who is advised by an assessor 
knowledgeable in the society's traditions.  The judicial 
actions of chiefs and customary courts are not regulated by 
code, and defendants may appeal a verdict to the formal court 
system.  Women do not have equal legal status with men and do 
not enjoy the same access to legal redress (section 5).

The law provides that the Government constitute a State 
Security Court to try high crimes against the State in secret, 
although due process provisions still apply.  Civil and 
criminal trials are public except in security-related cases.  
Defendants have the right to counsel, to be present at trial, 
to confront witnesses, to examine the evidence against them, 
and to appeal verdicts.  The Constitution affirms the 
presumption of innocence.

The law provides for counsel at public expense for minors and 
indigent defendants charged with crimes carrying a sentence of 
10 years or more.  Although lawyers comply with government 
requests to provide counsel, there are generally not 
remunerated by the Government.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The law requires that police have a search warrant, normally 
issued by a judge.  Police may search without warrants when 
they have strong suspicion that a house shelters criminals or 
stolen property.  However, human rights organizations report 
that police often conduct routine searches without warrants.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

Government security forces and rebel Tuareg groups engaged in 
bloody encounters until October when a truce was signed.  There 
were numerous reports that government forces used excessive 
violence against both rebels and noncombatants.  For example, 
the army killed eight rebels during an attack in August on the 
electric power plant at Tchighozerine in which several soldiers 
were wounded.  Government forces used excessive force in 
questioning civilians, particularly those of Tuareg background 
(see Section 1.c.).  Human rights groups maintain that the 
military established a security zone in the north to restrict 
the access of journalists and to obscure its activities from 
public scrutiny.  Judicial authorities deny mistreatment of 
rebels detained by the courts but admit that soldiers may have 
mistreated prisoners in transit from the battlefield.  Although 
the Government did not expressly forbid journalists to enter 
the security zone, in practice reporters seldom ventured 
there.

Although some of the attacks were simple banditry, rebels 
continued a pattern of attacking civilian targets to obtain 
vehicles and other supplies.  In August the rebels began to 
attack economic targets and government facilities in the 
north.  To demonstrate the Government's inability to protect 
civilians and key facilities, rebels attacked an electric power 
plant, a communications ground station, and two large uranium 
mines.  During these raids, rebels killed a number of civilians 
as well as government troops.  Rebel raids resulted in the 
death of at least 6 civilians as well as 29 government troops 
and 37 rebels.  Since the Government established a security 
zone in the north and restricted the access of journalists and 
others, the number of casualties on all sides remains 
unconfirmed.

Tuaregs raided sedentary camps of relatively prosperous 
Nigerien Arabs in the North until early 1994.  Arabs, in turn, 
formed militias that actively battled Tuaregs.  Human rights 
groups charged that the military tolerated, and may have been 
an accomplice in, the formation of these Arab militias.  
Tuaregs killed a senior Arab militia leader in February.  
Fearing an escalation of violence, the armed forces exercised 
tighter controls over the Arab militias but continued to use 
them as guides.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press.  
While the Government did not routinely bring suits for the 
apparent purpose of intimidating the press, the Government sued 
a major newspaper--and later imprisoned its publisher--for 
fomenting ethnic division by publishing a provocative letter 
from one of its readers.  The Secretary of State of Government 
(Prime Minister's Office) charged the independent paper with 
fomenting ethnic division, a civil crime under Nigerien law.  
Authorities detained the publisher for 35 days.  The same 
publisher was sued for libel on other occasions by various 
government officials, but none of the several suits has been 
resolved.  In another prominent lawsuit brought by a high 
ranking officer accused of plotting a coup, two newspapers were 
found guilty of libel and fined.  The finances and existence of 
small newspapers are threatened by such suits, although to date 
no newspaper has ceased publication.

Foreign journals circulate and report freely.  However, one 
foreign journalist, who entered the country without passing 
through border controls, then spent 3 weeks with Tuareg rebels, 
had her passport seized and was held under house arrest for 1 
week.  She was questioned about rebel activity and her 
intentions in Niger before having the passport returned and 
being allowed to leave the country.  She was not mistreated.

The permanent Superior Council of Communication (CSC) provided 
for in the Constitution is charged with guaranteeing free and 
fair access to the media.  CSC members were finally elected and 
installed, but the organization is hobbled by a limited budget 
and lack of political direction.  The CSC's activities were 
limited to granting broadcast licenses.  It granted the first 
broadcasting license in February to the local affiliate of 
Radio France International followed in April by a local music 
and call-in station.

The most important public medium is the government-operated 
multilanguage National Radio Service, which reported on 
opposition activities.  The Government publishes the daily Le 
Sahel and its weekend French edition.  There are 12 private 
French and Hausa language and additional political party 
weeklies or monthlies.  Newspapers openly criticized the 
Government and gave access to publication by Tuareg and labor 
leaders.

Academic freedom is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association.  Although the Government routinely grants permits 
for demonstrations, it retains the authority to prohibit 
gatherings either under tense social conditions or if 
sufficient advance notice (48 hours) is not provided.

In April a court found 13 opposition party members guilty of 
illegally carrying arms and damaging public property after 
their demonstration protesting the celebration of the first 
anniversary of the President's investiture.

Under the Constitution, Nigeriens may form political parties of 
any kind, except those that are based on ethnicity, religion, 
or region.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Government respects freedom of religion.  Most Nigeriens 
practice Islam.  Christians (including Jehovah's Witnesses) and 
Baha'i practice freely.  Foreign missionaries work freely, but 
must be members of an internationally recognized organization 
and registered as a Nigerien association.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The law provides for freedom of movement.  Among the Hausa and 
Fulani peoples in eastern Niger, some women are cloistered, and 
can leave their homes only if escorted by a male and usually 
only after dark.  Security forces at checkpoints monitor travel 
of persons and the circulation of goods, particularly near 
major population centers and sometimes demand extra payments.  
Attacks by rebels or bandits on major routes to the north 
severely restricted movement.  Neither emigration nor 
repatriation are restricted.

There are 3,600 Chadian refugees in Eastern Niger.  In 
addition, several thousand Tuaregs from Mali reside in Niger 
but are not officially registered as refugees.  The Government 
cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and 
other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees; there 
were no reports of forced repatriation of refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised this right in early 1993 in three rounds of 
elections judged free and fair by international observers, 
after adopting a new Constitution establishing the Third 
Republic in 1992.  Citizens aged 18 years and over can vote and 
balloting is by secret ballot.  The Constitution provides for a 
political system with checks and balances, a strong Presidency, 
an ethnically representative 83-seat National Assembly, and an 
independent judiciary.  Despite a worsening economic situation, 
a coalition Government functioned well until a rift developed 
in mid-1994 between the Prime Minister and his party and the 
remainder of the coalition.  The Prime Minister took his party 
out of the Government in September, leaving a new Prime 
Minister from the President's party to lead a minority 
Government.

Women do not traditionally play a role in politics.  The 
societal practice of husbands' voting their wives' proxy 
ballots effectively disfranchises many women.  This practice 
was widely used in the presidential and National Assembly 
elections in 1993.  In the National Assembly, 5 of
the 83 members are women, and the Government appointed 5 women 
to ministerial positions.  Special electoral districts are 
designed to ensure that minority ethnic groups (Toubou, Fulani, 
Tuareg, and Arabs) are represented.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several independent human rights groups and associations 
operate without governmental hindrance, dominant among which 
are the Nigerien Association for the Defense of Human Rights, 
Democracy, Liberty, and Development; the National League for 
Defense of Human Rights; Adalci ("dignity" in Hausa); and the 
Network for the Integration and Diffusion of Rights in the 
rural milieu (known as "RIDD-FITLA").  There are several active 
women's rights groups which, with the withdrawal of the draft 
family code and increased intimidation, lost membership and 
became increasingly beleaguered during the year (see Section 
5).  The International Committee of the Red Cross is active in 
Niger and Amnesty International also visited.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, social 
origin, race, ethnicity, or religion.  In practice, however, 
there is discrimination against women, children, ethnic 
minorities, and disabled persons, including limited economic 
and political opportunities.

     Women

Despite the Constitution's provisions for women's rights, the 
deep-seated traditional belief in the submission of women to 
men results in discrimination in the political process (see 
Section 3), in education (see below), and in employment and 
property rights.  Discrimination is worse in rural areas, where 
women do much of the subsistence farming as well as child 
rearing.  Women have made modest inroads in civil service and 
professional employment but remain underrepresented.

Women's inferior legal status, for example, is evident in that 
while a male head of household has certain legal rights, 
divorced or widowed women, even with children, are not 
considered the head of their household.  The Government 
considered a draft family code modeled on codes in other 
African Muslim countries which intended to eliminate gender 
bias in inheritance rights, land tenure, and child custody, as 
well as end the practice of repudiation, which permits a 
husband to obtain an immediate divorce with no further 
responsibility for his wife or children.  In June, when Islamic 
associations condemned it, the Government suspended discussions 
of the proposed code.  Islamic militants reportedly threatened 
women who supported the code with physical harm.

Domestic violence against women is widespread, although firm 
statistics are lacking.  Wife beating is reportedly common, 
even in upper social strata.  Families often intervene to 
prevent the worst abuses, and women may (and do) divorce 
because of physical abuse.  While women have the right to seek 
redress in the customary or modern courts, few do so out of 
ignorance of the legal system, fear of social stigma, and fear 
of repudiation.  Women's rights organizations report that 
prostitution is often the only economic alternative for a woman 
who wants to leave her husband.

There continued to be isolated incidents of violence against 
women attributed to religious motivation.  In one widely 
reported incident in Maradi in April, religious extremists 
physically abused African women wearing Western clothing 
because a religious leader blamed the failure of the rains on 
immoral women.

     Children

Although the Constitution provides that the State promote 
children's welfare, financial resources are limited.  Only 
about 25 percent of children of primary school age actually 
attend school and about 60 percent of those finishing primary 
school are boys.  The majority of young girls are kept at home 
to work and rarely attend school for more than a few years, 
resulting in a female literacy rate of 7 percent, versus 18 
percent for males.  Tradition among some ethnic groups allows 
young girls from rural families to enter marriage agreements on 
the basis of which girls are sent at the age of 10 or 12 to 
join their husband's family under the tutelage of their 
mother-in-law.  There are credible reports of underage girls 
being drawn into prostitution, sometimes with the complicity of 
the family.

According to international experts, female genital mutilation 
(FGM) is practiced by several ethnic groups in the extreme 
western parts of Niger and in the far eastern areas.  While 
clitoridectomy is sometimes practiced in these two groups, the 
most extreme form, infibulation, is not practiced.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic minorities--Tuareg, Fulani, Toubou, Kounouri and 
Arab--continue to assert that the far more numerous Hausa and 
Djerma ethnic groups discriminate against them.  The Hausa and 
Djerma dominate government and business.  The Government has 
supported greater minority representation in the National 
Assembly and increased education and health care.  However, 
nomadic peoples, such as Tuaregs and many Fulani, continue to 
have less access to government services.

In July, the criminal court in Maradi condemned to life 
imprisonment 42 Hausa farmers found guilty of the 1991 murder 
of 103 Fulani herders.  The Hausa farmers, bent on vengeance 
for the presumed murder of one of their kinsmen, slaughtered 
and burned to death the Fulanis in a punitive expedition.  The 
court ordered prison sentences ranging from 2 to 20 years for 
an additional 14 people.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution mandates that the State provide for people 
with disabilities.  However, the Government has yet to 
implement regulations which call for accessibility and 
education for those with special needs.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides formal recognition to workers' 
longstanding right to establish and join trade unions.  
However, more than 95 percent of Niger's work force is employed 
in the nonunionized subsistence agricultural and petty trading 
sectors.

The National Union of Nigerien Workers (USTN), a federation 
made up of 42 unions, represents the majority of salary and 
wage earners; most are government employees, such as civil 
servants, teachers, and employees in state-owned corporations.  
The USTN and the Affiliated Teachers' Union, SNEN, profess 
political autonomy, but like most unions, have informal ties to 
political parties.  During the year, labor challenged the 
Government on the its budget and a new law regulating strikes.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized the law 
requiring that all union management officials be citizens, 
asserting that this provision serves to restrict the full 
exercise of the right to elect representatives in full 
freedom.  The Constitution provides for the right to strike, 
except for security forces and police.  However, the police did 
stage a brief strike in March.

Also in March, the National Assembly passed a new strike law 
specifying that labor must give notice and begin negotiations 
before work is stopped; that public workers must maintain a 
minimum level of service during a strike; that the Government 
can requisition workers to guarantee minimum service; and that 
striking public sector workers will not be paid for the time 
they are on strike.  The latter condition already prevails in 
the private sector.

USTN staged general strikes over pay throughout the first half 
of the year, and a 2-month general strike which crippled public 
administration and reportedly decreased government revenue.  
Critics alleged USTN corruption led it to terminate this strike 
unsuccessfully, compromising future collective bargaining 
power.  Information workers and researchers, customs workers, 
and the transport sector each struck over unpaid wages or 
working conditions.  All these strikes were legal.

The USTN is a member of the Organization of African Trade Union 
Unity and abides by that organization's policy of having no 
formal affiliations outside the African continent.  However, it 
enjoys assistance from some international unions, and 
individual unions such as the Teacher's Union are affiliated 
with international trade secretariats.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

In addition to the Constitution and the Labor Code, there is a 
Basic Framework Agreement, negotiated by the USTN's 
predecessor, employers, and the Government, which defines all 
classes and categories of work, establishes basic conditions of 
work, and defines union activities.  In private and state-owned 
enterprises, unions widely use their right to bargain 
collectively with management without government interference 
for wages over and above the statutory minimum as well as for 
more favorable work conditions.  Collective bargaining also 
exists in the public sector.  However, since most organized 
workers, including teachers, are government employees, the 
Government is actually involved in most bargaining agreements.  
The USTN represents civil servants in bargaining with the 
Government, and labor/management agreements apply uniformly to 
all employees.

The Labor Code is based on ILO principles; it protects the 
right to organize and prohibits antiunion discrimination by 
employers.  Labor unions reported no such discrimination.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor, except for 
legally prosecuted prisoners.  There were no reports of 
violations.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Child labor in nonindustrial enterprises is permitted by law 
under certain conditions.  Children under 14 must obtain 
special authorization to work, and those aged 14 to 18 years 
are subject to limitation on hours (a maximum of 4.5 hours per 
day) and types of employment (no industrial work) so that 
schooling may continue.  Minimum compulsory education is 6 
years, but fewer than half of school-age children complete 6 
years of education.

The law requires employers to ensure minimum sanitary working 
conditions for children.  Law and practice prohibit child labor 
in industrial work.  Ministry of Labor inspectors enforce child 
labor laws.  Child labor is practically nonexistent in the 
formal (wage) sector, although children work in the unregulated 
agricultural, commercial, and artisan sectors.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code establishes a minimum wage for salaried workers 
of each class and category within the formal sector.  After the 
January devaluation of the CFA franc and April wage scale 
increases, the lowest minimum is approximately $38 (20,500 CFA 
francs) per month.  Additional salary is granted for each 
family member and for such working conditions as night shifts 
and required travel.  Minimum wages are not sufficient to 
provide a decent living for workers and their families.  Most 
households have multiple earners (largely informal commerce) 
and rely on the extended family for support.

The legal workweek is 40 hours with a minimum of one 24-hour 
rest period.  However, for certain occupations the Ministry of 
Labor authorizes longer workweeks--up to 72 hours.  There were 
no reports of violations.

The Labor Code also establishes occupational safety and health 
standards; Ministry of Labor inspectors enforce these 
standards.  Due to staff shortages, however, inspectors focus 
on safety violations only in the most dangerous industries:  
mining, building, and manufacturing.  Although generally 
satisfied with the safety equipment provided by employers, 
citing in particular adequate protection from radiation in the 
uranium mines, unions say workers should be better informed of 
the risks posed by their jobs.


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[end of document]

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