International Legal Association Raises Alarm over Detainee Death in Niger

On 8 May 2024, the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (ADC-ICT) issued a press release voicing deep concern over the recent death of Lt Col Anatole Nsengiyumva in Niger. This incident marks a troubling development in the treatment of former defendants of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Lt Col Nsengiyumva passed away on 7 May 2024 under dubious circumstances in a house where he, along with six other former defendants, was held. This group has been in custody since their controversial transfer to Niger in December 2021 by the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT). This is the second such incident following the death of Mr. Muvunyi in June 2023.

The ADC-ICT criticized the conditions of their detention, which it described as illegal and a serious threat to both their physical and mental health. The prolonged detention of these individuals, who have either completed their sentences or been acquitted, is without legal justification and calls for urgent intervention.

The statement from the ADC-ICT highlighted the failures of the IRMCT and the international community in addressing the rights of these former defendants. According to the ADC-ICT, the re-incarceration of individuals who were acquitted or served their sentences by the ICTR tarnishes the Tribunal’s legacy and underscores ongoing selective cooperation by states in international legal matters.

Furthermore, the ADC-ICT underscored the lack of adequate support from the international community, including Rwanda, in ensuring a fair and dignified treatment of these individuals. The organization has made an urgent call for states to provide relocation options outside of Niger to prevent further loss of life among the detainees.

The ADC-ICT, serving as an independent professional body, represents defence counsel practicing before the IRMCT and previously the ICTY. The organization remains committed to promoting the rights and interests of defence counsel and their clients, advocating for the integrity and fairness of legal proceedings at the international level.