The abolitionists’ forum in Niger: a great success
A well-attended forum
The abolitionist forum, combining speeches, presentations, a workshop and the screening of a film, gathered more than 400 people from different backgrounds, key players of the fight against the death penalty: civil society representatives, political leaders, MPs, theologians, lawyers, journalists, students, professors, etc. The participants exchanged views on different topics: among other subjects, the death penalty and terrorism, Islam’s and Christianity’s perspectives on the death penalty, the abolition of the death penalty worldwide and the Nigerien situation, strategies to encourage the abolition of the death penalty.
The death penalty: an inefficient and cruel punishment still in force in Niger
The participants recalled the inefficiency of the death penalty, particularly for fighting terrorism, pointing out that the fear of dying will not deter terrorists, who are on the contrary fascinated by death. The risk of judicial error and the use of the death penalty for political purpose were also condemned by the panellists. Maman Aminou A. Koundy, magistrate, reiterated that the death penalty was contrary to the rule of law. Participants to the forum also stressed that the death penalty was not in line with the Holy Scriptures.
In his speech, the Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Justice mentioned the difficulties met in the process of the abolition of the capital punishment: a bill abolishing the death penalty has namely been rejected in 2010. Nonetheless, a bill foreseeing the accession of Niger to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has been approved by the government in 2014. Besides, the Ministry of Justice commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment lately. At the forum, the Ministry’s representative reaffirmed “the commitment of the government to carry on its efforts to abolish the death penalty in Niger in the near future”.
Strategies aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in Niger
The participants exchanged views on the civil society’s strategies to speed up the abolition of the death penalty in the country. The crucial role of the civil society has been underlined: according to Mahame Chekaraou Maazou, member of the National Commission on Human Rights, awareness-raising campaigns are well-needed. In order to reach a broader audience, they should be relayed by community radio stations. The organisation of workshops to raise awareness among opinion-makers would also be welcomed. Furthermore, assistance should be provided to prisoners on death row. Besides, Kanni Abdoulaye, National Coordinator of Human Rights organisations and representative of the Nigerien civil society at the forum, encouraged NGOs to pursue their advocacy activities.
In their final statement, the participants to the forum called upon the government to foster the dialogue on the abolition of the death penalty and to carry out awareness-raising campaigns. Parliamentarians were invited to vote in favour of the bill authorising the accession of Niger to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, while NGOs were encouraged to continue their work in favour of the abolition.