Army members accused of executing more than 70 civilians in western Niger

Niger soldiers patrol in the desert of Iferouane,  Agadez Region, February 2020 Niger soldiers patrol in the desert of Iferouane, Agadez Region, February 2020 africanews - Souleymane Ag Anara / AFP

05 September 2020

The bodies were discovered in six mass graves: the killings allegedly took place during military operations carried out in Ayorou earlier this year

On September 4, the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) issued the results of its investigation, accusing Niger security forces of executing at least 71 civilians, whose bodies were discovered in six mass graves located in Ayorou department, Tillaberi region.

The villages concerned are located in the tri-border region separating Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where the security situation has dramatically worsened due to the increased activism of non-state armed groups, including affiliates of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISAG). The Commission - formed by government officials, members of parliament, lawyers and representatives of unions and NGOs - was investigating following allegations that more than 100 civilians had gone missing during counterterrorism operations carried out between March 27 and April 2, 2020.

"It is elements of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) which are responsible for these summary and extrajudicial executions” said Abdoulaye Seydou, member of the CNDH and president of the Pan-African Network for Peace, Democracy and Development (REPPAD). According to Seydou, the victims were killed with bladed weapons and small arms, but there was no evidence to prove the responsibility of the highest ranks of the Nigerien army. “It wasn't the entire army that did it, it was a few small groups”, added the CNDH secretary general, Alichina Amadou Koulguéni.

The CNDH investigation followed the allegations raised by the UN Mission to Mali (MINUSMA) and Amnesty International, who accused the Nigerien army – together with Malian and Burkinabe security forces – of perpetuating human rights violations while carrying out counterterrorism operations across the Sahel. In April 2020, the MINUSMA’s Human Rights Division had already denounced the worrying “multiplication” of misdeeds carried out by national armies deployed in Mali. In the first trimester of 2020 alone, the Malian army was accused of 101 extrajudicial killings while Niger security forces allegedly executed 34 civilians on Malian soil. On June 10, Amnesty International issued its report on human rights violations by security forces in the Sahel, urging national authorities to scale up the fight against impunity, investigate these severe allegations and respect their international commitments.

Since the CNDH report was published, no official response has yet been released by Niger authorities.       


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Author: Ester Zangrandi

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