Posted on 20 April 2020
Ali Idrissa is the director of ROTAB (Réseau des organisations pour la transparence et l’analyse budgétaire – Network of Organisations for Budgetary Transparency and Analysis) in Niger. CAHR understands that Mr Idrissa was summoned by the Judicial Police on Thursday 9 April 2020 to respond to defamation charges brought by former Secretary General to the Ministry of Defence, Mr Wali Karingama, and the wife of the former Chief of Staff of the Army, in relation to a corruption scandal which involved the Ministry of Defence.
According to publicly available reports, the latest financial audit of the Nigerien Ministry of Defence revealed the embezzlement of funds originally allocated for military equipment. In response to this information, Nigerien civil society mobilised last 15 March in support of the Defence and Security Forces, the main victims of the embezzlement, demanding that the responsible individuals should be brought to account. The 15 March protest resulted in the arrest of 16 individuals, six of whom are still detained.
Mr Idrissa has been actively engaged, including through his Twitter and Facebook accounts, in demanding the release of the six prisoners. CAHR understands that he was summoned in response to complaints lodged in relation to one of Mr Idrissa’s Facebook publications. Defamation charges against Mr Idrissa were brought under the Cybercrime Law. After having been kept in custody for five days, Mr Idrissa was eventually released on bail on Tuesday 14 April 2020.
According to Nigerien law, the police can keep individuals in custody for a maximum of 48 hours, renewable only once. Given that Mr Idrissa voluntarily attended the police station on Thursday morning at 11am and that he was released only on the following Tuesday, his custody has been in violation of the law at least from Monday morning onwards.
In addition, while Mr Idrissa has provisionally been released, the criminal charges brought against him have not been dropped and he is at risk of prosecution, which may result in him having to pay a substantial fine or be sentenced to prison.
CAHR urges the Nigerien government to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Mr Idrissa, release all civil society activists detained in relation to the 15 March protest and promptly, impartially, independently and effectively investigate the allegations of embezzlement of public funds disclosed in the latest financial audit of the Ministry of Defence.