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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Niger's new constitution was approved in July 1999. It restores the semi-presidential system of government of the December 1992 constitution (Third Republic) in which the president of the Republic, elected by universal suffrage for a 5-year term, and a prime minister named by the president share executive power. The unicameral legislature is comprised of 83 deputies elected for a 5-year term under a proportional system of representation. Political parties must attain at least 5% of the vote in order to gain a seat in the legislature.

The Constitution also provides for the popular election of municipal and local officials, which are expected to take place after all political interests agree upon a governmental decentralization plan. The country is currently divided into 8 departments, which are subdivided into 36 districts (arrondissements). The chief administrator (prefet) in each territorial unit is appointed by the government and functions primarily as the local agent of the central authorities.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The Supreme Court of Niger is the highest judicial body of the State in administrative, judicial and financial matters. The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over constitutional and electoral matters. It is responsible for ruling on the constitutionality of laws and ordinances, as well as compliance with international treaties and agreements. The Court includes seven (7) members. Crimes or misdemeanors committed by government officials in the exercise of their office are tried in the High Court of Justice. This court is comprised of Deputies elected from within the National Assembly.

Traditional chiefs can act as mediators and counselors and have authority in customary law cases as well as status under national law where they are designated as auxiliaries to local officials. Chiefs collect local taxes and receive stipends from the Government, but they have no police or judicial powers and can only mediate, not arbitrate, customary law disputes. Customary courts, located only in large towns and cities, try cases involving divorce or inheritance. They are headed by a legal practitioner with basic legal training who is advised by an assessor knowledgeable in the society's traditions. The judicial actions of chiefs and customary courts are not regulated by law, and defendants may appeal a verdict to the formal court system.

Source: U.S. Department of State, Niger Embassy to the U.S.

Human Rights

The Nigerien Government's human rights record remained generally poor in 2001; although there were improvements in several areas, some serious problems remain. With the 1999 election of President Tandja and members of the National Assembly in generally free and fair elections, citizens exercised their right to change their government. Two prisoners remained missing after having last been seen in the custody of military officers. Police and members of the security forces beat and otherwise abused persons; there reportedly were no incidents of torture by the military. Prison conditions remained poor, and arbitrary arrest and detention remained problems. Delays in trials resulted in long periods of pretrial confinement. The judiciary also was subject to executive and other influence. Security forces infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government limited freedom of the press. The Government generally respected the right to association; however, several Islamist organizations that engaged in or threatened violence remained banned. The Government frequently restricted freedom of movement. Domestic violence and societal discrimination against women continued to be serious problems. Female genital mutilation (FGM) persisted, despite government efforts to combat it. There was societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and ethnic and religious minorities. Worker rights generally are respected; however, there were reports that a traditional form of servitude still was practiced. Child labor occurs, including child prostitution. There were reports of trafficking in persons.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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IRIN - Niger