UNODC strengthens Niger's investigation and prosecution capacity of terrorism-related cases
As a landlocked country located between Libya, Mali and Nigeria (among others), Niger is fraught with an increasing number of terrorist threats ranging from kidnappings to human and firearms trafficking activities. These operate nationally, regionally and internationally and are further aggravated by the weakening of the rural economy, increasingly affected by desertification, climate change and political instability.
The political crises that have struck Libya and Mali have exacerbated this delicate situation, facilitating illicit and criminal activities, and ultimately rendering Niger one of the poorest nations in the world. Despite having taken several concrete counter-terrorism initiatives, Niger remains exposed to terrorist attacks due to the presence of several radical groups such as MUJAO, AQIM, Al Murabitoun led by Mokhtar Bel Mokhtar and Boko Haram in the South of the country.
In this context, UNODC organized a national training workshop on investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases, from 12 to 15 May 2015. The activity was delivered to Nigerien officials, and especially those residing outside the capital, Niamey. Organized in partnership with INTERPOL and supported by the Government of Spain, the workshop sought to strengthen magistrates and judicial police officers' (police and gendarmerie) investigation and prosecution capacity of terrorism-related cases.
The training brought together some 30 participants from different regions of the country (including Arlit, Konni, Agadez, Tillabery, Dosso, Zinder, and the Diffa region) along with national and international experts. As related by the participants, this exercise was of high relevance as it solidified their knowledge of the special investigation techniques outlined in Niger's national counter-terrorism legislation. Indeed, as outlined by the Magistrate of Birni N'Koni's District Court, the event was highly useful to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram in the country. Trainees also acquired a sound understanding of the universal legal framework against terrorism allowing for the effective prosecution of terrorist acts.
The event also aimed to strengthen trainees' knowledge of international cooperation mechanisms, such as intelligence and information sharing, along with Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition. Obstacles to inter-agency cooperation - for instance, between law enforcement and judiciary officials (prosecutors and judges) - were also identified, along with measures to overcome them and achieve a thorough and effective collaboration.
To such regard, experts and trainers emphasized the importance of proactive judicial cooperation and information sharing to create synergies between Sahel countries to restrain terrorist attacks and dismantle their networks. The importance of human rights obligations in the fight against terrorism was also discussed, as outlined by UNODC training modules such as the recently published one on Human Rights and Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism.
UNODC's counter-terrorist activities and capacity-building efforts for criminal justice officials are part of the organization's contribution the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (2013-2017). As such, they aim to support the development of accessible, effective and accountable criminal justice systems in the states of the region, while also strengthening their detection and border control capacities in line with international conventions and protocols, as well as human rights principles and rule-of-law based standards.