The UN human rights head said on Friday that there was no legal foundation for Niger’s military junta to prosecute deposed president Mohamed Bazoum for high treason, and that the country’s “very notion of freedoms” was at jeopardy.
The military junta that took power in a coup last month said it will charge Bazoum with high treason for his interactions with foreign heads of state and international organizations, triggering outrage from the US and West African nations.
“This decision is not only politically motivated against a democratically elected President but has no legal basis as the normal functioning of democratic institutions has been cast aside,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement.
“The very notion of freedoms in Niger is at stake,” he said. “Generals cannot take it upon themselves to defy – at a whim – the will of the people. Rule-by-gun has no place in today’s world.”
The coup leaders have imprisoned Bazoum and dissolved the elected government of Niger, a major uranium producer and Western ally in the fight against an Islamist insurgency.
Turk, who called for Bazoum’s immediate release, said the Niger coup, the sixth in the region in the past three years, was deeply troubling.