Document - Mauritania: Amnesty International calls on Mauritania to live up to their obligations after the ratification of two key international instruments
11 October 2012
AI Index: AFR 38/009/2012
Mauritania: Amnesty International calls on Mauritania to live up to their obligations after the ratification of two key international instruments
Amnesty International welcomes Mauritania’s commitment to the protection of human rights, illustrated by the recent ratifications of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). Amnesty International calls upon Mauritania to take the necessary measures to ensure that these and other international human rights treaties are fully implemented in law, policy and practice.
However, Amnesty International remains concerned of continuing reports of the very human rights violations that these treaties seek to address. In particular, the organization is concerned at the continued enforced disappearance of 14 people convicted of terrorism-related offences who were transferred from the central prison in the capital Nouakchott to an unknown location on 23 May 2011. Their place of detention has remained undisclosed by the authorities since then.
In failing to disclose the whereabouts of these 14 people, the Mauritanian state is violating the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which they ratified on 3 October 2012. This Convention provides that “the arrest, detention, abduction, or any other form of deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, thereby placing such a person outside of the protection of the law” amounts to enforced disappearance. Enforced disappearances can never be justified and constitute a crime under international criminal law.
Amnesty International therefore calls upon Mauritania to immediately disclose where the 14 men are detained, to place them in a formal place of detention and allow the prisoners’ families and lawyers to see them. The organisation also calls on the Mauritanian authorities to ensure that the prisoners are allowed access to appropriate medical care. Those responsible for their enforced disappearance should be brought to justice in fair trials, and the victims should be provided with reparations.
In the course of various missions to Mauritania conducted by Amnesty International, the organization also established that the security forces systematically use torture and other ill-treatment and that conditions of detention in several prisons remain deplorable.
Torture continues to be used as a method of investigation and repression against all types of detainees in Mauritania, men and women, alleged Islamists and people arrested for common law offences. In particular, those detainees accused of terrorism, including some of the 14 disappeared men, 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. All reports of torture and other ill-treatment must be promptly, independently, impartially and effectively investigated. Those suspected of carrying such acts out must be brought to justice in fair proceedings, and victims provided with reparations.
Amnesty International is calling upon the Mauritanian authorities to follow their ratification of the OPCAT by establishing an independent, professional, representative and well-resourced National Preventive Mechanism, in accordance with the OPCAT to carry out visits to places of detention and make recommendations to the government on ways to prevent and stop torture and other ill-treatment, including improvement of prison conditions. Amnesty International is also calling upon the Mauritanian authorities to implement the Enforced Disappearances Convention into national law and recognize the competence of the Committee established to monitor the implementation of the Convention.
The ratification of these treaties is an important step forward, but it must not remain a mere signature on a piece of paper. Ratifications must be followed by concrete steps to ensure that human rights are respected and protected in practice.