GENEVA/NIAMEY (27 March 2018) – A UN human rights expert has urged the Government of Niger to prioritise the adoption of a strategy to ensure the rights of internally displaced persons are respected following attacks by non-state armed groups in both the Diffa and Tillabery regions triggered a deterioration of the security situation and uprooted over 130,000 people.
“Despite some positive steps taken by the Government, including the decision to develop an IDP law incorporating the provisions of the Kampala Convention into domestic law, its approach to internal displacement has largely been ad hoc,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary.
“The authorities of Niger must intensify their efforts and devote greater resources and attention to the needs of IDPs, in collaboration with international partners,” she said in a statement, at the end of a six-day visit to Niger.
Jimenez-Damary said there were some 130,000 internally displaced in the south-eastern region of Diffa, while, in Tillabery, in the western part of the country, unofficial figures indicate that there are more than 8,000 internally displaced persons. “IDPs are living in precarious conditions, often under the threat of violence and further displacement, and with inadequate shelter, access to food, potable water, healthcare and education,” she said.
The human rights expert warned that the prospect of new waves of displacement in the Tillabery region were very likely and required a strategy which has been absent so far. “I encourage the Government to draw lessons from the ongoing situation in Diffa, so as to ensure a thorough response, which takes into account the humanitarian and human rights needs of IDPs at all stages of the unfolding displacement crisis,” Jimenez-Damary said.
“I learnt that many IDPs face suspicion of association to non-state armed groups. While legitimate security concerns exist, the overwhelming majority of IDPs are civilians and must be treated as such under international humanitarian law and protection principles.”
With increasing military operations in the Tillabery region, protection of civilians was vital, she said. “It is essential that, at this stage, the G5 Sahel force sets up a strategy for the protection of civilians. I also urge the Government, defence and security forces and the Humanitarian Country Team to work hand in hand to strengthen coordination between civil and military actors so as to allow for an effective response to the needs of IDPs,” the Rapporteur said.
Internal displacement in the Diffa region has resulted in the loss of social protection networks, exposure to abuses and other protection risks such as early marriage, sexual and gender-based violence, intercommunal tensions, and land and property disputes.
“In Diffa, IDPs whom I met reported that conditions in many areas are still precarious and not yet conducive for their return due to continuing insecurity, the destruction of infrastructure and homes, and the absence of basic services in their areas of origin,” Jimenez-Damary added.
Her full findings and recommendations will be included in a report which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2018.
Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary (Philippines) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2016. A human rights lawyer specializing in forced displacement and migration, she has more than two decades of experience in NGO human rights advocacy.
As a Special Rapporteur, she is part of the Special Procedures of Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page : Niger
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