Document - Mauritania: Thirteen people convicted of terrorism subjected to enforced disappearance
23 June 2011
AI Index: AFR 38/002/2011
Mauritania: Thirteen people convicted of terrorism subjected to enforced disappearance
It is now a month since thirteen people convicted of terrorism “disappeared” after being transferred from the civilian prison in Nouakchott (the capital) to an unknown location. Amnesty International is concerned about what may become of them and is asking the Mauritanian authorities to reveal where the detainees are.
On 23 May 2011, thirteen prisoners held at the civilian prison in Nouakchott were taken by night to an unknown location. The state of health of some of them requires ongoing medical supervision and Amnesty International fears that they may not have access to appropriate medical care in their new place of detention.
One month after their disappearance and despite repeated requests, the families of the prisoners have still not been told where their loved ones have been taken or the reasons for the transfer. On 8 June 2011, the prisoners’ personal effects, including their books, mattresses and blankets, were returned to the families with no explanation.
At the beginning of June 2011, Amnesty International, which had met most of these prisoners during its last mission to Mauritania in September 2010, wrote to the Mauritanian authorities asking to be informed of what has happened to these people and where they are being held. No answer has been received.
The arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, thereby placing such a person outside the protection of the law, amounts to enforced disappearance and is contrary to international law. Enforced disappearances, including in the case of individuals accused or convicted of having committed human rights violations, can never be justified.
The group of disappeared prisoners includes Sidi Ould Sidina and Mohamed Ould Chabarnou, members of Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who were sentenced to death in 2010 for an attack on French tourists in Aleg in December 2008, El Khadim Ould Semane, also sentenced to death for an attack on Mauritanian police officers, and Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Ahmednah, sentenced to death for murdering a US citizen in June 2009.
Amnesty International stresses that the right of all prisoners to communicate with the outside world and receive visits constitutes a fundamental safeguard against human rights violations such as torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance. In the course of various missions to Mauritania conducted by Amnesty International, the organization found that this category of detainee had been systematically tortured at the time of arrest and that some had been subjected to ill-treatment in detention. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no inquiry has been conducted into these allegations.
Amnesty International is therefore calling on the Mauritanian authorities to immediately respect the rights of the prisoners in accordance with relevant international standards and in particular to ensure that they can enter into contact with the outside world, that they are not subjected to torture or ill-treatment and that they are held in an officially-recognized place of detention located near their place of residence.