Amnesty International Report 2005 - Mauritania
|Publication Date||25 May 2005|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 - Mauritania , 25 May 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/429b27ef2.html [accessed 25 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Covering events from January - December 2004
Dozens of people were arrested in connection with two alleged plots to overthrow the government. More than 180 people appeared before the Criminal Court in a trial which did not meet international standards for fair trials. Torture of detainees continued. Slavery and forced labour persisted.
On two occasions, in August and September, the authorities claimed to have uncovered plots to overthrow President Maaouiya Ould Taya. The authorities accused Libya and Burkina Faso of supporting the plotters and providing them refuge. Libya and Burkina Faso denied the accusations and Burkina Faso asked the African Union to open an inquiry into them. Between August and October the authorities arrested a number of civilians and soldiers in connection with a failed coup attempt in June 2003 and the alleged plots in August and September 2004.
In May the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights decided that the dissolution of the opposition coalition Union of Democratic Forces-New Era (Union des forces démocratiques-Ere nouvelle) in October 2000 constituted a violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
In August the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns about the persistence of slavery-like practices, 23 years after the abolition of slavery. It also expressed concern that some human rights organizations had been denied official recognition by the authorities.
Mauritania strengthened its military cooperation with the USA in the context of the "war on terror".
Prisoners of conscience and political opponents
- In April the Supreme Court confirmed the sentences of former President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla and eight of his supporters. In November 2003 the former President had been given a five-year suspended sentence, fined and deprived of civil and political rights. His son, Sid'Ahmed Ould Haidalla, detained since November 2003, was released on bail in January.
- In October, Jemil Ould Mansour, Cheikh Mohamed El Hacen Ould Dedew and El Moctar Ould Mohamed Moussa were held incommunicado for six days in Nouakchott, then released without charge. They were rearrested in November and detained incommunicado for 14 days in an unknown place. They were later charged with "complicity in the fabrication and forgery of documents that might cause a disturbance to public order and prejudice internal and external security" and remained in detention at the end of the year. AI considered them to be prisoners of conscience. On the first day of the trial nine women, all relatives of the defendants, were arrested while trying to attend the trial and accused of distributing leaflets. One of them was provisionally released after a week and the others were still in detention at the end of 2004.
Incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment
There were reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, mainly of those held in connection with the failed coup attempt of June 2003 and the alleged August and September 2004 plots.
Dozens of military officers and civilians were arrested and detained incommunicado for weeks in unknown places following the August and September plot allegations. Some detainees alleged that they suffered various forms of physical and psychological torture, including being beaten and suspended by the feet from an iron bar.
- Abderrahmane Ould Mini and Saleh Ould Hannena, accused of being the masterminds of the attempted coup in June 2003, were reportedly held in solitary confinement and kept in handcuffs and leg-irons. The two went on hunger strike in November in protest at their conditions of detention. During the trial Saleh Ould Hannena said that he had been tortured during his detention.
In November more than 180 people including military officers were tried on charges of threatening the security of the state in connection with the alleged coup plots in August and September and the failed coup in June 2003. Their trial before the Criminal Court at Ouad Naga did not meet international standards for fair trials.
AI was particularly concerned that the defendants were detained incommunicado for months and that some of them were tortured. The right to a fair hearing was not respected and defence lawyers were subjected to serious intimidation by the president of the court. Two defence lawyers were arrested and held for a short time. Families of the detainees had their right to visit their relatives restricted.
While the government continued to deny that slavery existed, people were believed to be held in forced labour or slavery.
- In January, a local human rights organization, SOS Slaves, wrote to the Minister of the Interior to express its concern about Matalla, a man who had escaped from slavery in the region of Tiris Zemour. Matalla had told the authorities that 11 members of his family remained in conditions of slavery in Tiris Zemour.
Freedom of expression and association
In April the Minister of the Interior refused to officially recognize the Party for Democratic Convergence, a party newly created by associates of former President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla.