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“At the current date, the number of people sentenced to death in Niger is eight (8) people” – Le Sahel

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On July 18, 2022, the Réseau Progrès et Développement Humanitaire du Niger (REPRODEVH-Niger) and the Niger Coalition against the Death Penalty with the support of their partners celebrated World Prisoners’ Day in Niger under the theme: ” Humanization of prisons and places of detention: towards the reconstruction of life through reading in the prison environment”. During this day, the actors organized cultural and sporting activities at the Civil Prison of Niamey. On the sidelines of this international day dedicated to Nelson Mandela, we spoke with Mr. Almoctar Garba Illou, President of the Nigerien Coalition Against the Death Penalty on the prison situation in our country and the actions that the Humanitarian Progress and Development Network of Niger (REPRODEVH-Niger) is leading for the abolition of the death penalty and torture and all similar offenses in Niger as well as the efforts made by the Government.

Mr. President of the Network for Progress and Humanitarian Development in Niger (REPRODEVH-Niger) and of the Niger Coalition against the Death Penalty, on July 18, 2022, on the occasion of the International Day of Prisoners, your network organized at the camp minors from the Maison d’Arrêt de Niamey cultural and sporting activities. Can you explain to us what this day consists of and its objective?

The international community has, as every year, celebrated the international day dedicated to Nelson Mandela on July 18. Nelson Mandela was born today and it is an opportunity to pay tribute to the fight of the former President of South Africa, who spent 27 years of his life behind bars during apartheid. During this day, it is a question of magnifying the work of prison staff, and of remembering that detainees are an integral part of society, and must, as such, receive treatment compatible with human dignity and the rights humans.

In Niger, according to the provisions of Chapter II, of Decree No. 99-368/PCRN/MJ/DH of September 3, 1999, determining the organization and internal regime of prison establishments in its Art. 120 – I quote: ”The detainees can indulge during their leisure time in recreational or cultural activities to maintain them in satisfactory mental and moral conditions and at the same time to develop their faculties”. Hence the motivation of our organization to move towards the humanization of prisoners according to the policies of the country.

Why is the choice focused on the camp of minors of the Maison d’Arrêt de Niamey?

Allow me to recall that for years, Niger, through the Ministry of Justice, has been engaged in a profound reform of its penal and penitentiary system. The reforms of the penal and penitentiary system undertaken have certainly made it possible to achieve convincing results, but much remains to be done. I would also like to recall that a penitentiary and reintegration policy was initiated by the competent authorities. This policy revolves around three (03) main axes, namely; the reform of the Penitentiary Administration and the Strengthening of Governance; the humanization of detention conditions and Reintegration and Productivity. This saving action of the Progress and Humanitarian Development Network of Niger (REPRODEVH-Niger) and its partners works for the well-being of the prison populations of Niger.

However, the promotion of sports practice by female, male and minor prisoners in a remand center triggers the overall socialization process. Leisure, which has become a central element of current social life, must also penetrate the prison, especially minors who have the chance to evolve there. Sport, applied to the prison system, takes on the meaning of recreational and cultural activities in order to contribute to the physical and moral well-being of prisoners. The leisure activity joins the educational activity, the foundation of the contemporary penitentiary system.

This event fits perfectly with the national policies of the national authorities of Niger, including in the first place SE. Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic, Head of State, in his rebirth program act III.

The minors of the Maison d’Arrêt de Niamey are in a good position to be accompanied, firstly in view of their very good level of supervision by the person in charge of this house and its partners, then the availability of the infrastructures, the question resolved very high security in Niamey, the rapid growth of the very high rate of minor detainees on this day, numbering 89 as of July 18, 2022 and the distance to accommodate this activity.

Precisely the theme of the celebration of the day was: ”Humanization of prisons and places of detention: towards the reconstruction of life through reading in the prison environment”. What message do you want to convey through this theme?

The choice of this theme is not accidental. It is of capital importance because very often “at the beginning of long incarcerations, reading is often a comfort in a new universe, a new social organization. It helps the prisoner to forget the outside world, to comfort him and lead him to discover another imaginary world. To read in prison is to get out of the 9m2 in which we are locked up.

The classification and management of detainees must take into account the constraints linked to the reception capacity. What are the efforts that your network in partnership with the government is carrying out at the Maison d’Arrêt de Niamey, which according to its manager is overcrowded?

You must take advantage of the columns of your newspaper to warmly congratulate the authorities of Niger through the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH Niger) and the Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals for the efforts made. Indeed, we are permanent on the plea which bore its fruits by the clear will of the authorities of Niger to go towards the humanization of the prisons of arrests and places of detention against the overcrowding. Evidenced by: the promotion of hygiene and sanitation in prisons; the decree commuting capital sentences to life sentences since 2014; the revision of the penal code and penal procedure code of Niger, let’s even say the total overhaul of these two codes; the significant increase in food bonuses and ADs in the management of penitentiary centers in Niger since the arrival of the new Minister of Justice Garde des Seaux who was kind enough to continue on the already existing achievements; the commitment of the Niger authorities to build a new remand center meeting international standards; the significant reduction of the restrictions of the Koutoukalé high security prison and many other things etc.

Mr. President, what is your coalition doing in the development and implementation of programs to prepare for reintegration and the humanization of detention conditions in partnership with the authorities of Niger?

Our coalition does not invent the wheel, through the Observatory of Places of Detention in Niger (OLIDE-NIGER) and the Nigerien abolitionist movement, we support the efforts and sectoral policies of the State in this area through laudable initiatives . These include, for example, visiting and monitoring the conditions of detention of people sentenced to death. The follow-up of the 248 recommendations accepted by Niger during its Universal Periodic Review in 2021; monitoring of prisons and places of detention

Your coalition is a member of the world coalition against the death penalty, which brings together non-governmental organisations, lawyers’ associations, trade unions and educators. Is the death penalty abolished in Niger? Tell us about his situation?

On December 18, 2020, nineteen people had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment by presidential decree on graceful remissions of sentences. In 2021, there were five people sentenced to death who did not have their sentences commuted, including a woman since May 2019 (Tillabéri remand center) and four men (including one at the Say remand center, a in Ouallam, one in Kollo and one in Tillabéri). Since then, the death row prisoner in Ouallam had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment in May 2022. However, four new death sentences were also pronounced in 2022. The first was pronounced by the Court of Assizes of Dosso on January 2, 2022 for assassination. Three other convictions were then pronounced by the Assize Court of Tillabéri for murder, attempted night theft in a meeting with a weapon and rape followed by theft. The number of people sentenced to death in Niger is currently at 8.

What are the prospects for the actions you intend to carry out in the context of the fight against the death penalty, torture and all similar offenses in Niger?

The idea for us is to support Niger’s efforts on the issue of abolition through effective advocacy to raise awareness among parliamentarians, public authorities and national public opinion on the need to abolish the death penalty in conforming to the provisions of the constitution of the 7th Republic of Niger (articles: 10, 11 and 12). Thus, the national forum of Nigerien abolitionists on the death penalty held on October 10 and 11, 2021 in the conference room of SNAD Niamey made several recommendations that will serve as levers to act on and strategic axes.

There is the outright repeal of articles 242 and 243, and all provisions of the Nigerien penal code and penal procedure code leading to the death penalty and the revision of the penal code for consideration by the Nigerien government.

We encourage the State of Niger to vote in favor of the United Nations resolution on the moratorium on executions in December 2022. Respect for the national and international commitments that Niger has pleaded with the States Parties that have joined OP2. We also further support advocacy campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty in Niger and the popularization of the law on the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (MNP) in collaboration with the CNDH NIGER and the Ministry of Justice.

By Seini Seydou Zakaria (onep)

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