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Mauritania

    November 09, 2017
    In response to today’s Appeal Court ruling in Mauritania releasing a blogger who had been sentenced to death for writing a ‘blasphemous’ post on Facebook, Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director said:   “The release of Mohamed Mkhaïtir, who has been jailed for nearly four years simply for peacefully expressing his opinions on Facebook, is a huge relief. This really is a day of triumph for him and his family, as well as all those who campaigned on his behalf since 2014.”   “Now that Mkhaitir is released, Mauritanian authorities must ensure that he lives without threat of physical attacks so that he can regain his dignity”.   “This ruling provides a golden opportunity for the Mauritanian authorities to change tack on this sensitive issue and halt their brutal crackdown on human rights activists. The authorities must now release Moussa Biram and Abdallahi Matallah the two anti-slavery activists currently jailed in a remote prison where they have spent nearly 500 days .’’  
    November 07, 2017

    Mauritania must immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Mohamed Mkhaïtir, who has been sentenced to death for criticizing the use of Islam to justify discriminatory practices against minority ethnic groups in the country, Amnesty International said ahead of his appeal trial.

    The case of Mohamed Mkhaïtir, who was sentenced to death in December 2014 for a “blasphemous” post he made on Facebook, will be heard for a second time by an appeal court in the north-western town of Nouadhibou tomorrow.

    “This case is absurd and represents a real setback for freedom of expression in a country that has not imposed punishment for apostasy in more than 50 years of independence,” said Kiné-Fatim Diop, Amnesty International’s West Africa Campaigner.

    “Mohamed Mkhaïtir is a prisoner of conscience who has been in detention for three years solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and standing-up against discrimination. His scandalous death sentence must be quashed and he should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    November 10, 2016

    Mauritania’s appeals court must quash jail terms of up to 15 years handed down to 13 anti-slavery activists and release them from prison immediately, Amnesty International said ahead of their hearing on Monday.

    “This is an open and shut case of the government trying to silence anti-slavery activists in Mauritania,” said Kiné Fatim Diop, Amnesty International’s West Africa Campaigner.

    “From the outset this trial has been marred by irregularities, and allegations of torture that have not been investigated. The authorities have failed to prove any criminal responsibility for the acts of violence these individuals have been accused of. The Appeal Court must put an end this farce.”

    Amnesty International has designated the 13 activists as prisoners of conscience.   

    The activists were originally sentenced on 3 August to between three and 15 years in prison on trumped up charges of rebellion, use of violence, attacks against the police and judicial officials and membership of an unrecognized organization.

    August 01, 2016

    Authorities in Mauritania must drop all charges and immediately and unconditionally release 13 anti-slavery activists arbitrarily detained in an attempt to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, Amnesty International and 16 other civil society organisations said today. 

    The activists will appear before a court on 3 August in the capital Nouakchott accused of rebellion, use of violence, attack against public authority, armed assembly and membership of an unrecognised organization. If convicted, they face a fine and a jail term of up to two years.

    “These activists are prisoners of conscience who have been falsely accused and are behind bars in order to impede their legitimate work. They have been targeted persistently for their views and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Kiné Fatim Diop Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner.  

    “The long-time persecution has no legal justification. The authorities must end their rule of fear and repression on anti-slavery activists.”

    April 20, 2016

    Mauritania must quash the death sentence handed down to a blogger for apostasy and release him unconditionally, Amnesty International said today, ahead of his appeal court hearing in the south-western city of Nouadhibou tomorrow.

    Mohamed Mkhaïtir, 33, was sentenced to death in December 2014, after a year in pre-trial detention, for writing a blog that criticized those who use Islam to discriminate against certain groups in the society. It is the first time the death sentence has been imposed for apostasy in Mauritania since the country gained independence in 1960.

    “The death penalty should not be used in any circumstances, the sentencing of Mohamed Mkhaïtir to death for writing a blog that criticized those who use religion to discriminate is unjust and it shows how far the Mauritanian authorities will go to try and stamp out dissent’’, said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa researcher.

    “The Mauritanian authorities must quash the death sentence and immediately and unconditionally release him.”

    August 20, 2015

    The harsh sentence upheld this evening against a prominent anti-slavery activist is a clear indication that Mauritania has no intention of letting up on its crackdown on human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today.

    An appeal court in the south-western town of Aleg has confirmed the two year sentence after convicting former presidential candidate Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, Brahim Bilal and Djiby Sow of membership in an unrecognized organization, taking part in an unauthorized assembly, failing to comply with police orders and resisting arrest.  

    “It is revolting that this unjust and harsh sentence has been upheld. All three of them have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights and are therefore prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    January 15, 2015

    The Mauritanian authorities must release three activists - including a prominent opposition politician - jailed today for holding anti-slavery rallies, Amnesty International said.

    Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protestors in front of the court who were demonstrating against the judgment.

    The court in the southern town of Rosso handed down two-year sentences to three anti-slavery activists and human rights defenders, Brahim Bilal, Djiby Sow and Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, a former presidential candidate. They have been convicted of membership of an unrecognized organization and of taking part in an unauthorized assembly. Seven other activists were acquitted.

    “The conviction of these activists for taking part in peaceful protests on charges which are vague and open to abuse violates their human rights to free expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,’’ said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa Researcher.

    November 12, 2014

    The Mauritanian authorities must stop the harassment, intimidation and repression of anti-slavery activists, Amnesty International said today following the arrest of a number of high-profile campaigners.

    At least nine people including Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) and runner-up in June’s Presidential election, were arrested on 11 November and are being held in different detention centres in the southern city of Rosso, without family visits.

    Others arrested include Djiby Sow, President of the NGO Kawtal and Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, Vice President of the IRA.

    All of those arrested represent non-governmental human rights organizations that actively campaign against slavery in Mauritania. Over the last week they have been travelling across the country organizing rallies, public meetings and lectures. This was halted yesterday in the southern town of Rosso, when a police unit was sent to stop the meeting, citing the absence of any authorization documents. The IRA had sent a request but the government refused it in a written statement.

    July 30, 2013

    Amnesty International has confirmed that Aaron Yoon, who was released from prison in Mauritania on 23 July, returned to Canada on Friday 26 July, 2013.

    Aaron Yoon has gone into seclusion with his family for a few days at an undisclosed location.

    A Mauritanian appeal court ruled on Sunday 14 July that Aaron Yoon, a Canadian from London, Ontario should be released from prison.

    Mauritanian officials had launched the appeal seeking to have Aaron Yoon’s 2-year sentence increased to ten years. The court instead reportedly reduced his sentence to 18 months, noting that he had, by that time, served that amount of time and should be released from prison.

    An Amnesty International delegation, including AI Canada Secretary General Alex Neve, interviewed Aaron Yoon extensively in prison in June 2013. 

    Amnesty International has highlighted serious concerns that he was subject to torture when he was first taken into police custody and that trial and appeal proceedings in Mauritania did not meet minimum international fair trial standards.
     

    July 23, 2013

    Amnesty International has confirmed that Aaron Yoon was released from prison in Mauritania on July 23, 2013 and remains in that country at this time. 

    While it is expected that he will return to Canada in the near future, Amnesty International has no further details as to when or how that will occur.

    A Mauritanian appeal court ruled on Sunday 14 July that Aaron Yoon, a Canadian from London, Ontario should be released from prison.

    Mauritanian officials had launched the appeal seeking to have Aaron Yoon’s 2-year sentence increased to ten years. The court instead reportedly reduced his sentence to 18 months, noting that he has now served that amount of time and should be released from prison.

     

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations               

    (613)744-7667 #236 jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

     

     

     

    July 15, 2013

    Amnesty International has confirmed that a Mauritanian appeal court ruled on Sunday 14 July that Aaron Yoon, a Canadian from London, Ontario should now be released from prison. 

    Mauritanian officials had launched the appeal seeking to have Aaron Yoon’s 2-year sentence increased to ten years. The court instead reportedly reduced his sentence to 18 months, noting that he has now served that amount of time and should be released from prison. 

    It is not yet clear when Aaron Yoon will actually be released from prison and allowed to leave the country. 

    Amnesty International calls on Mauritanian officials to comply promptly with the appeal ruling, including allowing Aaron Yoon to return to Canada if that is his wish.

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations                (613)744-7667 #236 jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

    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.

    June 25, 2013

    Posted at 0001 hrs GMT  26 June 2013

    Police in Mauritania are using torture to coerce men, women and children to confess to crimes while in custody, Amnesty International said after a 10-day research mission.

    The delegation in Mauritania interviewed around 60 detainees, including women and children, held in three prisons in the capital, Nouakchott.

    “Prisoners, including men held on ordinary and terrorism-related charges, spoke to us about the torture they had faced while in police custody. Many had been tried in grossly unfair procedures and some were subjected to enforced disappearance,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada English Branch, who was part of the delegation.

    Eleven children told Amnesty International’s delegates they had been tortured in police stations, including at the Brigade des Jeunes, a police post in Mauritania’s capital with a specific mandate to deal with juvenile offenders.

    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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