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.