UNODC trains lawyers in Niger to improve the defense of terrorism-suspected persons, including children

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Following a wave of terrorists attacks carried out around the Lake Chad region, primarily carried out by Boko Haram, a large number of people are currently detained and await trial. With limited to no access to legal aid services, these detainees are at risk of remaining imprisoned over an extended period of time, without benefiting from a fair trial. Moreover, children are also currently deprived of their liberty in connection with terrorism-related activities. In many cases, these children were forcibly conscripted or abducted by terrorist groups and thus, are victims of unlawful child recruitment and may also be victims of trafficking in persons.

UNODC supports the efforts to strengthen the criminal justice system and the Rule of Law in Niger. Therefore, UNODC organized a training session for 25 Nigerien lawyers on the assistance and defense of persons suspected of terrorism and prosecuted in terrorism related cases. The training focused on the current detainees' right to a defense and more explicitly on the right to be assisted by a lawyer and the principle of presumption of innocence. Moreover, the workshop also focused on the circumstances of children forcibly conscripted by terrorist groups. Indeed, their specific needs as children associated with violent extremist groups and as potential victims of trafficking must be addressed.

His Excellency M. Marou Amadou, Minister of Justice of Niger delivering its certificate to a lawyer after the training
His Excellency M. Marou Amadou, Minister of Justice of Niger delivering its certificate to a lawyer after the training

The training took place in Niamey from 9 to 11 May 2017. The trainers were two international experts (specialized lawyers from the French National Council of the Bars), a national expert and several UNODC experts in justice. During this three-day workshop, the various experts were able to tackle a large number of issues related to terrorism cases, including: the international and national legal framework on terrorism, the rights of the defense in terrorism related cases, legal aid services, specific norms on children's rights and measures related to violence against children, prohibition of their recruitment by terrorist groups. Lastly, the international and national legal framework on trafficking in persons were also covered.

In addition, the interactive nature of the workshop enabled the participants to have constructive exchanges on these issues with the trainers and to work on practical cases. More specifically, participants worked on how to obtain relevant information from legal authorities and from their clients. They also spent considerable time on case preparation and learned more about the type of methods available to them as lawyers when defending their clients in court.

The participants in working groups
The participants in working groups

The closing ceremony was co-hosted by HE Mr. Marou Amoudou, the Minister of Justice of Niger, and his Malian counterpart, HE Mr. Mamoudou Ismaël Konaté, who seized this opportunity to highlight the importance that lawyers play in any judicial system, stating that "there is no justice without lawyers".

This training was delivered under the framework of the Sahel Programme and was funded by the United States. The specific issues related to defense of children were delivered in the framework of the project on children recruited and exploited by terrorist and extremist groups in Niger, which is funded by Canada, Denmark and Switzerland. This project aims to promote their social reintegration. Lastly, GLO.ACT (The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants) supported the training on human trafficking. GLO.ACT is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union and UNODC, of which Niger is a beneficiary country.