The people of Niger have the right to truth and justice

'After two successive military coups in 1996 and 1999, Niger needs truth and justice iq order to prevent further human rights abuses in future,' Amnesty International said today.

The truth about the political killings of 9 April 1999, as with all other human rightq abuses committed in Niger since the beginning of the 1990s, is vital so that the victims' familieq may complete their mourning and so that Niger can be reconciled with its past. The organisatioq emphasises, in particular, the need to investigate fully the 150 dead bodies discovered in a masq grave at Boultoungoure, in the east of the country, in January 1999, while the country was stilq governed by President Bare« Mainassara. The families of the victims, all members of the Touboq ethnic group , need to know the reasons for the killing of their relatives and they have the right tq justice and to financial and moral redress.

This truth and justice currently cannot be brought to light because of an amnesty for thq perpetrators of the coups of 1996 and 1999, which was included in Niger's new Constitution,

adopted by referendum in July 1999. This amnesty was confirmed in a law passed by the Nigeq Parliament, in January 2000, thereby laying the final stone on the edifice of impunity

'Amnesty International calls on the Parliament of Niger to annul the amnesty so that aq independent and impartial inquiry may take place and those responsible for these killings may bq brought to justice,' Amnesty International said today.

Several consistent eyewitness accounts have gradually uncovered the truth about thq events of 9 April 1999. According to these accounts, collected by Amnesty International,

President Bare« Mainassara was hit in the back by a bullet, at the military airport when making hiq way to his helicopter. He was then allegedly killed by bullets fired from an automatic machinq gun.

In place of the truth, the authorities, installed as a result of the military coup of 9 Apriq 1999, presented an absurd version of the facts, then held a rushed inquiry. The killing oq President Bare« Mainassara was, first of all, presented as the result of an 'unfortunate accident',

which therefore required no investigation.

Finally, an inquiry by the national gendarmerie was opened in August 1999, undeq pressure from human rights organisations and from the European Union, in particular. Amnestq International has been able to obtain a copy of the conclusions of the inquiry report. 'Readinq this text, one could not regard the inquiry as exhaustive and independent', the organisation saiq today.

The inquiry contained serious omissions. It lasted for only three days, which seems ratheq short for a matter of such gravity. Furthermore, the gendarmes did not judge it necessary tq summon and hear evidence from eyewitnesses or from the forensic medical officer whq examined the body of the assassinated President.

Nonetheless, the need for truth and justice persists both in Niger and outside the country.

On 12 February 2000, several hundred individuals the majority of them Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights demonstrateq in Niamey in an attempt to obtain an international inquiry into the circumstances of thq assassination of President Bare« Mainassara. On 27 March 2000, members of the Europeaq Parliament who were visiting the country also stressed that Niger should respect the Lome«

Convention and, in particular, the principal of good governance which holds that 'impunitq should neither succeed nor gain control'.

The necessity of fully investigating human rights abuses was also recognised, on 2 Marcq 2000, by President Mamadou Tandja who declared publicly that he was committed to 'seekinq out and establishing the truth' about the circumstances of President Bare« Mainassara'q assassination.

Amnesty International welcomed this declaration by the new head of state, but also stateq that: 'The truth is not enough, justice must also prevail, and for that to happen, the obstacle of thq amnesty must be removed.'

During President Ibrahim Bare« Mainassara's rule, Amnesty International, on severaq occasions, denounced serious human rights violations committed by the Niger authorities anq demanded that those responsible be brought to justice. It is therefore in all impartiality that,

having denounced violations committed by President Bare« Mainassara's government, Amnestq International is now calling for an investigation into the killings of the four individuals on 9 Apriq 1999 and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Throughout the last decade, none of those responsible for human rights violations havq been brought to justice. 'It is imperative that this impunity ends,' Amnesty International said.

'So that the country's future may be built on a basis of truth and justice.'

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