Sunday, July 21, 2024

Niger: Niger Court Strips Ousted President of Immunity

Niger’s highest court on Friday lifted immunity from prosecution for ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, clearing the way for the military junta that removed him from office to try him for treason.

The ruling was made by Niger’s State Court, which has become the country’s highest judicial authority since it was created last year by the military officers who orchestrated the coup that overthrew Bazoum and his government last July. Shortly after the coup, the junta had announced plans to prosecute the president for high treason and undermining national security.

Bazoum, the nation’s democratically elected president, has been held under house arrest in the presidential palace along with his wife, Hadiza, since the July 26, 2023, coup despite protests and demands for his reinstatement from the Economic Community of West African States as well as Western nations.

The international advocacy group Human Rights Watch reported in September that Bazoum filed a petition with ECOWAS, citing violations of his and his family’s human rights during his detention. In December, the ECOWAS court ruled that Bazoum was arbitrarily detained and called for his release. That ruling was ignored.

Human Rights Watch, in a statement Thursday ahead of the ruling, called on the junta to “drop the current proceedings, and if there are recognizable charges against Bazoum, file the case before the regular criminal courts and ensure all fair trial rights are respected.”

Before last year’s coup, Niger was the West’s last major security partner in the Sahel, the vast region south of the Sahara that has become a hot spot for violent extremism. The U.S. had 1,000 U.S. troops stationed on two air bases in the nation.

In March, the military junta announced it was ending the military agreement between the two nations, and Pentagon officials agreed to withdraw all troops by mid-September. A senior U.S. military official said Friday that about 600 U.S. military personnel remained in Niger.


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