Concern grows for kidnapped Human Rights defender in Niger

Spokesperson: Rupert Colville 23 May, 2008

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. El Hadj Ahamadou Ahalawey - the Vice Chair of the National Human Rights Commission of Niger - and of his nephew, Harouna Sidi Mahmoud, who were kidnapped by a group of armed men in Tanout, in the Zinder region of Niger, on 14 May.

El Hadj Ahamadou Ahalawey has recently been carrying out sensitization campaigns aimed at enhancing prospects of peace in the north of the country. The general security situation in the northern part of Niger has been particularly unstable since February 2007 when the Mouvement Nigérien Pour la Justice (MNJ) began an armed insurgency. Ambushes, armed raids, kidnappings, killings, mining of roads, hostage taking and other violent acts have been relatively common events since then.

Concerns for Mr. Ahalawey’s well-being are compounded by the fact that he has recently undergone a number of surgical operations, as a result of which he needs regular medical examinations.