Cablegate: Niger: Human Rights and the Conflict in the North
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1432/01 3400908
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 060908Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3949
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0621
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 001432
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM MOPS PGOV NG
SUBJECT: NIGER: HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE CONFLICT IN THE NORTH
REF: (A) NIAMEY 1430 (B) NIAMEY 1250 (C) NIAMEY 531
NIAMEY 00001432 001.2 OF 002
1. (SBU) Corinne Dufka, Human Rights Watch senior researcher
for West Africa on December 5 briefed DCM and Development
Coordinator on her visit to Niamey to look into human rights
issues associated with the current conflict in northern
Niger. Dufka had met with a number of GON officials,
including the High Commissioner for Peace Restoration (who is
responsible for implementing the peace accords that ended the
last rebellion), a member of the National Assembly and a
senior Gendarme Officer. Nigerien Armed Forces (FAN)
officers, senior Justice Ministry officials and the head of
the government's human rights office declined requests for
meetings. Dufka met with about ten Tuaregs who had recently
returned from the north, most of whom were actually MNJ
combatants. She also met with the head of Niger's leading
independent human rights organization, the Association
Nigerienne pour las Defense des droits d'Homme (ANDDH).
3. (SBU) Dufka said that overall the human rights situation
was not as bad as she had feared. Her major concerns were
the use of child soldiers by the MNJ, extrajudicial killings
by the FAN, and the use of landmines. She said that Human
Rights Watch may put out a statement expressing concern about
these issues. The MNJ uses children, some as young as 14 or
15, to gather intelligence. The boys are sent out with herds
of goats as cover to observe GON security forces. Dufka found
credible reports that GON security forces have executed
civilians, usually following attacks on security forces.
There is no evidence that these killings are part of a GON
policy, but there is also no indication that the GON punishes
those responsible. While it does not appear that either the
GON or the MNJ use anti-personnel mines, Dufka is concerned
about civilian casualties from anti-tank mines.
4. (SBU) Dufka visited predominately Tuareg neighborhoods in
Niamey to find Tuaregs who had recently been in the north.
Most of the ten or so she interviewed admitted to being MNJ
combatants. It appears that the MNJ allows combatants to
take leave. The issue is not that it can't feed them, but
that the combatants need to earn money to support their
families. The Tuaregs were generally not reluctant to tell
their stories, most of which Dufka found credible.
5. (SBU) Following are some of Dufka's findings:
-- Libya. Most of the MNJ combatants interviewed said that
Libya supports the MNJ. Several combatants reported training
in camps in Libya in the last couple of years. They also
reported receiving weapons that were flown to Agadez in
conjunction with Khaddafi's visit there last March (ref C).
(The gendarme officer also expressed the belief, widely held
among GON security forces, that Khaddafi brought weapons for
the MNJ.) One MNJ combatant said that Khaddafi visited a
camp where MNJ fighters were being trained.
-- Ethnic issues. One of Dufka's interlocutors provided a
second-hand report of the incident in which the MNJ claims
that GON security forces separated Tuareg and non-Tuareg
passengers on a bus, and killed the latter. Another
interlocutor, an ethnic Hausa, reported an incident in which
MNJ fighters stopped a bus and separated Tuaregs from
non-Tuaregs (based on the ability to speak Tamashek). They
robbed the non-Tuaregs, beating some of them, but did not
bother the Tuaregs.
-- Rape. One of Dufka's Tuareg interlocutors claimed that GON
soldiers had raped a Tuareg woman.
-- Detention. Dufka said that conditions for Tuaregs detained
by the GON were not that bad, and many were detained only
briefly. MNJ combatants claimed that the GON security forces
they held were all implicated in crimes.
-- MNJ claims to have killed a FAN colonel. Dufka said the
gendarmerie officer flatly denied the MNJ's claim that it had
killed the colonel in charge of the convoy that recently
relieved the besieged town of Iferouane (ref A). He said
that he had just spoken on the phone to the colonel.
-- MNJ oath. MNJ combatants reported signing an oath when
they joined the organization. The oath includes language
about not engaging in banditry.
-- Nigerien human rights groups. Dufka was not impressed
with domestic human rights organization, none of which seem
NIAMEY 00001432 002.2 OF 002
to seek to verify claims of human rights abuses.
6. (SBU) Comment: Dufka's visit provided a useful and
objective look at the claims made by both sides in the
conflict. She is an experienced human rights researcher with
extensive experience in the conflict countries of West Africa
and elsewhere. She was methodical in her research, and
careful to characterize the credibility of the statements she
recounted. We are disappointed that local human rights
groups do not do the same.
7. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.