In 2023, Niger experienced increased political instability due to a military coup in July that removed a democratically elected government. The security situation further deteriorated because of spill-over from conflicts in Niger’s eastern and western regions. Expanding insecurity contributes to mistrust toward the state, and at the same time, it leads to diminished state presence. This worsens the separation between underserved communities and state services they desperately need. In addition, the state's response to increasing instability has resulted in more human rights abuses, with little to no accountability or remedy for victims. Within this context, ABA ROLI carries out the Human Rights and Access to Justice (HRAJ) program in collaboration with Search for Common Ground, with funding from USAID through the Freedom House-led Human Rights Support Mechanism.
ABA ROLI efforts in Niger create bridges between local dispute resolution mechanisms, such as traditional chiefs, and state justice institutions. Through measures to expand community awareness of rights and to improve community understanding of pathways to achieve rights enforcement, ABA ROLI builds the public’s confidence in state institutions. In 2023, we operated three “justice hubs” located in each of Niger’s most conflict-affected regions, including Diffa, Tahoua, and Tillaberi. Through each justice hub, an experienced attorney, with support from program staff and paralegals, engages with their communities in several ways. For example, the attorney conducts educational sessions, receives complaints from community members, assists in mediating or resolving disputes, and provides legal assistance to individuals who seek support in the state justice system. In 2023, the Justice Hubs received more than 229 individual cases. ABA ROLI’s justice hubs also developed a network of 45 community-based paralegals who are trained to educate and orient their neighbors toward appropriate forums for peacefully resolving disputes.
To improve the quality of the justice provided by state justice institutions, ABA ROLI partners with the Niger Court of Cassation—the highest court of appeal—to train magistrate judges on judicial skills including court management and on substantive topics such as new legal codes. To address the perceived separation of the courts from the communities that the courts serve, we support a series of court accompaniment structures, including Court User Committees, Town Hall Meetings, and Open Court Days. In locations where the National Judiciary lacks resources, the HRAJ program supports the Judiciary to convene hearings. In addition, ABA ROLI supports local CSOs to enable expanded outreach and education on the legal system to people in traditionally underserved communities.
To improve the ability of Nigerien state institutions to respond to large-scale human rights abuses, ABA ROLI also provides training and skills building to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on topics such as planning, preparation, and implementation of investigation and documentation missions. ABA ROLI also provides technical and financial support to enable the NHRC to undertake investigations of alleged human rights violations.