Niger: Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination … Ask Questions on Descent-Based Slavery and Child Statelessness

Published: 14/Apr/2023
Source: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Welcome Restoration of “A” Status for Niger’s National Human Rights Commission, Ask Questions on Descent-Based Slavery and Child Statelessness

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twenty-second to twenty-fifth periodic report of Niger, with Committee Experts welcoming the restoration of “A” status for Niger’s National Human Rights Commission, and asking questions on descent-based slavery and child statelessness.

Mazalo Tebie, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Niger, welcomed the reinstatement of “A” status for Niger’s National Human Rights Commission in 2022. The budget allocated to the Commission in 2021 had fallen significantly from 2020. Were there plans to increase its budget?

Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Niger, said there were reports that slavery was still present in certain societies in Niger despite the penalties imposed. The Global Index of Slavery indicated that there were around 130,000 victims of slavery in Niger. What progress had been made in drafting a plan of action against traditional slavery? Victims of slavery were subject to stigmatisation and discrimination, including a lack of access to public services. What measures were in place to protect the descendants of slaves from discrimination and exclusion?

Ms. Tebie noted that the civil registration system did not offer all children, including those of slave descent, the opportunity to be registered, preventing them from having access to certain basic social services and excluding them in adulthood from certain economic, political and civil rights. What measures had been taken to improve the birth registration system in general and more specifically for children of slave descent?

The Nationality Code had been amended in 2014 to reduce statelessness by granting Niger nationality to any child found in the country of unknown parents, Ms. Tebie said. How many children had benefitted by the new legal provisions for the granting of nationality? The University of Djibo Hamani in Tahoua, in November 2022, reported that approximately 700,000 persons were still stateless in Niger. What international and regional cooperation mechanisms had been initiated by Niger to protect its citizens from statelessness?

Ikta Abdoulaye Mohamed, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals of Niger and head of the delegation, said Niger had always been at the forefront of the struggle against racial discrimination. The Constitution ensured equality before the law for all without distinction as to sex, social, racial, ethnic or religious origin, and prohibited discrimination. Niger had adopted a National Justice and Human Rights Policy accompanied by a 10-year action plan for 2016 to 2025.

On the National Human Rights Commission, the delegation said Niger regretted the lacklustre budget of the Commission. However, the Commission’s budget had been increased in 2023 to ensure that it had at least the bare minimum to carry out its activities.

The delegation said the State had made many efforts to combat slavery. Legislation had been introduced in 2003 to prohibit slavery, and the draft amendment to the Criminal Code included provisions defining different forms of slavery, including the purchase of wives, and introducing specific punishments for each offence. Mr. Abdoulaye Mohamed said that a national day of mobilisation against slavery and trafficking was held each year.

Statelessness did not exist in the country, but there were children who were at risk of statelessness. All children, including those born to slaves, attended public schools. There was no discrimination based on a child’s heritage. Niger had used various international legal instruments to prevent slavery. Slave heritage was not noted on birth registration forms.

On measures to prevent child statelessness, the delegation said civil registration was universal, free and compulsory. There were around 15,000 registration offices in Niger, and also mobile birth registration services. Many actions were taken in collaboration with non-governmental organizations to register children who were not registered, with over 30,000 children registered annually through these actions in 2021 and 2022. The State party planned to reform the civil registry to digitise it. This would encourage an increase in birth registration.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Tebie called on the State party to take on further initiatives to address major issues such as slavery and statelessness. The dialogue, she said, had been an excellent opportunity to learn about the situation in Niger.

Mr. Abdoulaye Mohamed, in his concluding remarks, said racial discrimination was prohibited by legislation in Niger. The State party was doing its best to promote human rights, although it was facing major obstacles in this regard. He thanked the Committee for its observations, which would contribute to improving State legislation. Niger, he said, would spare no effort in implementing the Committee’s recommendations.

The delegation of Niger consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice; Parliament; the National Reporting and Monitoring Mechanism of the Implementation of Treaty Body Recommendations and the Universal Periodic Review; the Office of the Presidency; Ministry of the Interior and Decentralisation; Monitoring Mechanism for International Agreements; and the Permanent Mission of Niger to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Niger after the conclusion of its one hundred and ninth session on 28 April. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and ninth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.

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Themes: Birth Registration, Statelessness
Regions: Niger
Year: 2023