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After 7 years Niger finally adopts a law protecting human rights defenders

The Law on the Rights and Duties of human rights defenders adopted by Niger reaffirms the State's commitment to reinforce the protection of defenders and the role played by human rights defenders in Niger. Its effective implementation should help create an enabling working environment for defenders.

On 15 June 2022, the National Assembly of Niger adopted the law establishing the rights and duties of human rights defenders in Niger and became the fourth country in Africa to adopt a legal instrument for the promotion and protection of defenders.

“The adoption of the defenders’ law is the logical outcome of the work carried out since 2015, that is 7 years! Its aim is to protect human rights defenders in Niger and it takes into account the specificities of women human rights defenders and defenders with disabilities. It addresses the current shortcomings even if there is space for improvement,” highlighted Abdoulaye Kanni, the coordinator of the Collectif des Organisations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie (CODDHD).

While many countries considerably restrict the working environment of human rights defenders and increase threats, intimidation and reprisals through the adoption of restrictive measures and laws, Niger’s initiative to promote the work of human rights defenders is more than welcome.

The law, which contains 29 articles, outlines the rights and duties of human rights defenders, their responsibilities as well as the remedies, sanctions and reparation for violations against them. Indeed, article 4 guarantees their rights to freedom of association and expression, article 8 their right to technical and financial support and article 9 their right to communicate information to regional and international mechanisms without risk of reprisals. As it is the case in Mali, the new law also grants a specific protection to women human rights defenders and to disabled defenders. Additionally, the law provides that the State has a duty to respect, promote, protect and fulfil the rights of human rights defenders and their family members against situations of risk or danger they face.

“We invite the government to pursue its commitment by ensuring the implementation of the newly adopted law by establishing an effective, efficient and inclusive protection mechanism whose constitution and functioning will integrate human rights defenders. This is also an opportunity to call on and encourage other States in Africa and in the world to ensure their legal framework is protective of the rights of defenders,” concluded Stéphanie Wamba, ISHR Africa Programme Advocate.

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