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Niger is at the crossroads of migration routes in Africa and an important transit platform for thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to the Maghreb and Europe. Additionally, the security crisis currently raging in the Sahel has had significant humanitarian consequences, leading to massive displacements of population. The fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram has resulted in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. While non-State armed groups torture civilians and members of the security forces, it has also been widely reported that the State uses torture against both suspected terrorists and civilians.
Likewise, migrants who cross the Nigerien borders to Libya or Algeria to reach Europe are trapped in torture by a multitude of actors, including the security forces, traffickers and smugglers. Civil society blames anti-migration laws and policies adopted since 2015 with the support of the European Union for promoting the practice of torture and ill-treatment, including the smuggling of migrants in the desert.
It took 20 years to Niger to submit its initial report to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), in November 2019. On this occasion, it became clear that its legislative and institutional anti-torture frameworks are incomplete. The penal code does not clearly define or criminalize torture. The anti-terrorism and anti-migration laws give the impression that certain circumstances may justify or condone torture. The OMCT carried out an observation and advocacy mission to Niger in October 2019, which included meetings with migrants in Agadez together with partners Alternative Espaces Citoyens (AEC) and Collectif des organisations de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie (CODDHD). The result was an alternative report to the CAT, which contributed to immediate changes by Niamey at the end of the year, including the adoption of a law which defines and criminalizes torture and of another one establishing a national preventive mechanism.