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Mauritania

    June 28, 2013

    Leila Mint Abdel Aziz’s brother is detained in Guantanamo

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General Amnesty International Canada

    From all the conversations I had with survivors of human rights abuses and their relatives in the ten days I spent in Mauritania recently, one question has stayed in my mind.

    A woman, whose children cannot access public schools or health care because their father is imprisoned in an unknown location, for reasons of ‘public security’, asked: “this is their view of security?”

    Her husband and 13 other men have been held in a secret location since May 2011, having been convicted of charges related to terrorism.

    For more than two years they have had no contact with their families nor access to lawyers. Authorities say the men are still alive but they won’t say where they are being held and will not allow visits.

    The men’s children can only be registered for public schools and health care if their fathers have been properly inscribed in the new census (impossible if you are “disappeared”); or if a death certificate is available (impossible if you are still alive).

    This impossible situation seems to be routine in Mauritania, particularly when it comes to trying to justify the fight against terrorism.

    June 25, 2013
    Amnesty International delegation speaks with Mauritania’s Director of Penitentiary and Penal Affairs inside the entrance to the Prison Centrale in Nouakchott.

    Alex Neve,
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
    Nouakchott, Mauritania
    June 24, 2013

     

    "I came to study Arabic and the Koran.  I have learned about torture and injustice."

    -  Canadian national Aaron Yoon, 24 years of age, interviewed in the Prison Civil, Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 2013.

    Over the past ten days, as part of an Amnesty International mission in Mauritania I have spent many days interviewing prisoners in three prisons in the capital, Nouakchott.  For years now, Amnesty International has documented serious and widespread torture in Mauritania and the research mission followed up on those and other human rights concerns.  

    Among many prisoners I interviewed in Nouakchott’s Prison Centrale, I heard much about torture from a young Canadian man, Aaron Yoon, who has been held here for the past 18 months.  Aaron’s tale is a complicated and unusual one; which he realizes.  He knows that many Canadians will have questions about the chain of events that brought him to this point.  But he wants all to realize that he has been tortured and has been convicted on the basis of a blatantly unfair trial that gave him no opportunity to defend himself.  As he said to me: "I hope people will not rush to judge me unless they give me a fair chance to respond to what is being said about me.  It is terrible to be tortured.  It makes you say what they want you to say."

     

    << UPDATE: A Mauritanian appeal court ruled on Sunday 14 July that Aaron Yoon, a Canadian from London, Ontario should now be released from prison. Learn more

    The concerns about torture in Mauritania are widespread and longstanding, including in the cases of a growing number of prisoners held on charges related to terrorism or national security, but also with respect to minors, women and men detained on ordinary criminal charges.  In fact, virtually no one is safe from torture when in the hands of the Mauritanian police.

    April 05, 2013

    Amnesty International has confirmed that Canadian citizen Aaron Yoon is detained at a prison in Nouakchott, Mauritania.  An Amnesty International researcher interviewed him in prison during an Amnesty International mission to the country in July 2012. 

    At that time Mr. Yoon very clearly indicated that he did not want Amnesty International to take up or campaign on his case.  Amnesty International respects the wishes of prisoners with respect to what action they do or do not want the organization to take on their behalf.  As a result we have not campaigned on Mr. Yoon’s case in any way.

    Amnesty International has since confirmed that Mr. Yoon was brought to trial on terrorism-related charges in the summer of 2012 and sentenced to a two year prison sentence, beginning from the time of his arrest in December 2011.  As such he should be slated for release in December 2013.

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