Posts Tagged ‘Mauritania’

UN Panel debated death penalty with focus on human rights

February 26, 2019

Today, 26 February 2019, the UN Human Rights Council held its biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, with a focus on human rights violations in the context of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality.  A report was distributed by the APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Here some highlights:

..In her opening statement, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded that death rows were disproportionately populated by the poor and economically vulnerable; members of ethnic minorities; people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities; foreign nationals; indigenous persons; and other marginalized members of society.  Condemning people to death for conduct that should not be criminalized in the first place was never compatible with a State’s human rights obligations.  The High Commissioner encouraged all States to take a stand on the right side of history and join the international trend towards abolition.  

The panellists were Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal; Melinda Janki, Director of the Justice Institute Guyana; and Fatimata M’Baye, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association.  Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, acted as the discussion moderator.

Mr. Shany drew attention to the adoption by the Human Rights Committee of the General Comment No. 36 on the right to life, according to which the death penalty could not be “reconciled with full respect for the right to life.”  The General Comment made particular reference to the problem of inequality in the application of the death penalty.  


FATIMATA M’BAYE, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association, said that there had been a moratorium on the death penalty in Mauritania since 1987, though there were still death penalty rulings handed down.  She drew attention to the case of Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, a blogger who had posted an article about social discrimination in Mauritania, which meant he was accused of blasphemy.  When he was arrested, he was asked to repent and quickly withdraw the article, but unfortunately, he was still prosecuted quickly by the police.  This case had given rise to a great deal of violence and hatred within the local community.  Mohamed was sentenced to death in 2015 by the penal court of the country, which was confirmed in 2016.  There was an appeal launched, and a two-year sentence was later handed down.  Ms. M’Baye said that the blogger was currently being held in a secret location.  The source of law in Mauritania was Islamic law, and women were often sentenced to the death penalty, many times accused of infanticide.  The death penalty was an egregious practice that was humiliating and degrading.  The United Nations could play a role in ending the death penalty by asking those States that still practiced it to abandon this punishment in the name of the right to life. [see also:]

In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed belief that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human right violation.  They hailed the adoption in the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2018, but noted that around the world capital punishment continued to be imposed in violation of major international standards.  Speakers expressed deep concern that the death penalty was imposed in a disproportionate and discriminatory manner to juvenile offenders, women victims of domestic violence, minorities, foreign nationals, persons with disabilities, and poor and economically vulnerable populations.  Some, however, noted that every State had the right to choose its legal and criminal justice systems, without external interference, and that the rights of defendants always had to be weighed against the rights of victims and their families, and the broader rights of the community and society.    

Speaking were Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Italy, Mexico, Singapore on behalf of a group of countries, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, Slovenia, Ecuador, France, Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia, and Greece. 

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Friends World Committee for Consultation, Centre for Global Nonkilling, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Together against the death penalty, and International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), and the National Human Rights Institution: Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. ….. 

Iran respected those who had abolished the death penalty, but it could not accept any universal prescription to that effect.  Iran remained committed to observing the rule of law and due process in the criminal justice system, while continuing to study the best ways to serve justice.  Bangladesh stressed that its application of the death penalty was restricted to very selective cases of the most heinous crimes.  No child or pregnant woman could be sentenced to death.  Argentina believed that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human rights violation.

India reiterated its stance that it was a simplistic approach to characterize the death penalty as a human rights issue in the context of the right to life of the convicted prisoner.  This approach was deeply flawed and controversial.  There should be no external interference in the criminal justice system of any sovereign State. ….  Saudi Arabia stated that it used the death penalty for only for most serious crimes and in the most serious circumstances, after a fair trial had been guaranteed.  All procedures were in accordance with international standards as Islamic Sharia lay down the provisions of the punishments to guarantee the supreme rights of the people.  All States had the sovereign right to bring justice through their own procedures.  Greece opposed the death penalty in all cases and circumstances and highlighted the death penalty’s negation of the reformative function that any punishment should bare.  It was particularly concerned that the death penalty disproportionately affected women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and human rights defenders and therefore urged States to do their utmost to ensure a fair trial. ..

YUVAL SHANY, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, noted that many delegates had commended the trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.  However, a concern around what some had termed as a backlash against abolition in this field was also noted.  A number of representatives had also noted the irreversibility of the death penalty.  It was also noted that there was an increasing consensus that the death penalty if applied should only be applied for the most serious crimes.  There was also a strong concern from all corners of the room about the problem of discrimination in regard to poverty, sexual orientation, women, psychosocial disability and other issues.  The panel was asked: how could all address biases, racial biases, gender biases and other biases in the application of the death penalty, and identify good practices so the death penalty was applied in a non-discriminatory fashion? 


UN Human Rights Prize Winner Biram Dah Abeid writes to the UN about slavery

December 18, 2013

UN Human Rights Prize laureate, Mr. Biram Dah Abeid, has written a letter to the United Nations on the occasion of the ceremony on 10 December 2013. The letter, reproduced in its entirety, is available below courtesy of UNPO:

Praise the lord and peace be upon Prophet Mohamed, Read the rest of this entry »

Winners of 2013 United Nations human rights prizes announced today

December 5, 2013

On 5 December 2013 the six winners announced of the UN Human Rights Prize were announced: Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania, a son of freed slaves who works to eradicate the heinous practice; Hiljmnijeta Apuk of Kosovo, a campaigner for the rights of people with disproportional restricted growth short stature; Liisa Kauppinen of Finland, President emeritus of the World Federation of the Deaf; Khadija Ryadi, Former President of the Morocco Association for Human Rights; Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice the Constitutional Court; and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for attending classes and is now a renowned education activist. The award ceremony will take place at UN Headquarters in New York on 10 December 2013, as part of the annual commemoration of Human Rights Day [The Prize, which is bestowed every five years, is an honorary award given to individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding achievement in human rights.]

via United Nations News Centre – Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai among winners of 2013 UN human rights prize.

Situation of human rights defenders in Africa – overview by Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

November 6, 2013

The OMCT and the FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, made an intervention under agenda item 9: “Situation of human rights defenders” at the at the 54th session of African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights [ACHPR] on 5 November.logo FIDH_seulOMCT-LOGO

Human rights defenders were attacked, received threats or were slandered in the DRCSenegal and Tunisia. In some cases they were even killed, as in the DRC and in Cameroonin a climate of impunity. Defenders, and in particular defenders of economic, social and cultural rights, also continued to be subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment in AngolaCameroon, the DRCEgyptMauritania and Tunisia. Obstacles to freedom of association were also recorded, as for instance in AngolaEgypt and Rwanda. A summary is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights award winner Biram Abeid returns triumphantly to Mauritania

June 28, 2013

(Picture courtesy of IRA Mauritania)

For those who are sceptical of human rights awards and their impact, the following report should give some food for thought: “Following a month-long trip across Europe,

Read the rest of this entry »

UNPO General Secretary Congratulates Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania with Front LIne Award

May 4, 2013

A bit more on awards: here is an indirect way to announce the 2013 Front Line Defenders award: with the letter of congratulations published by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), which shows how recognizing a single individual HRD can lift a wider movement:Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

Brussels, 3 May 2013 – On behalf of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, I would like to warmly congratulate Mr. Biram Dah Abeid for receiving the prestigious Human Rights Defenders at Risk Award, presented by Front Line Defenders, in Dublin. Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders in Mauritania arrested

March 19, 2013

On 9 March 2013, police severely beat a number of human rights defenders and members of the Initiative pour la Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste en Mauritanie – IRA (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement) in Southern Mauritania. Nine of the human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested and remain in detention in Kaédi police station. (IRA is an organisation which works to eradicate slavery in Mauritania. It has members and supporters in various regions of the country.) Read the rest of this entry »

The six human rights defenders in line for the Front Line Award 2013

February 3, 2013

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedHuman rights defenders from Iran, Cambodia, Kenya, Uzbekistan, Colombia and Mauritania are finalists for the 2013 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. The jury is made up of members of the Irish and the European Parliament as well as  Front Line Defenders board member Noeline Blackwell.

The winner of the 2013 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders will be announced at a ceremony in Dublin later in the year.

Finalists for Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk 2013 are:

Mam Sonando – Cambodia – has devoted his life to helping the poor and disenfranchised of Cambodia, fighting for their rights while also following the non-violent precepts of his Buddhist faith. He is a journalist and the Director of one of only three independent radio stations in Cambodia where the state has almost complete monopoly over the media, and crackdowns on free speech have led to widespread self-censorship. He is also founder and president of a national organisation called the Association of Democrats, which actively promotes democracy and human rights. He was arrested In early July 2012 and despite there being absolutely no evidence to link him with the so-called secessionist movement, he was found guilty on 1 October 2012 of instigating insurrection and incitement to take up arms against the state and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Mansoureh Behkish – Iran – is a women’s rights activist and co-founder of Mothers of Khavaran and Mothers of Laleh Park. As a supporter of non-violent resistance and a HRD she has spent the past three decades empowering survivors and victims of human rights abuses. In particular she seeks to help the mothers, sisters and wives of the thousands imprisoned or executed by the Islamic Republic authorities, to seek justice through legal and humanitarian channels.As a result of her work as a HRD, she herself has faced continuous harassment, confiscation of her passport and violation of her right to travel and three terms of imprisonment.

David Rabelo Crespo – Colombia – has worked for 35 years in the defence of human rights. In the early years, he worked mainly in defence of social, economic and cultural rights, and later worked for worker’s rights, promoting social and union mobilisation. In more recent years, he has worked to defend the lives of others although in doing so he has put his own life at risk. Between 1998 and 2004 he was director of the Municipal Peace Council, a body devised to protect the lives of the local people who, with the arrival of the paramilitaries were at risk from the upsurge in assassinations of social and community leaders, and a series of massacres carried out with impunity. David Rabelo Crespo has devoted his life to promoting respect for human rights and international humanitarian standards in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia, and even though he is now imprisoned he continues to work to protect the rights of political prisoners in Colombian prisons.

Bahtiyor Hamraev – Uzbekistan – has been a dedicated campaigner for human rights in Uzbekistan for the last 15 years. He has been head of the Djizak regional branch of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) and has documented human rights violations in this region. In recent years he has become the main contact with families of imprisoned human rights defenders, helping to spread the information about their conditions in detention, the torture and ill-treatment and helping to provide the families with legal aid and financial assistance. The price he has had to pay has sometimes been far too high, but despite all of these difficulties, he has continued to work, refused to leave the country and tried to make a difference in one of the worst human rights situations in the region. Sadly, Hamraev is suffering from terminal cancer, yet he continues to send information about human rights violations and to assist families of imprisoned human rights defenders.

Biram Dah Ould Abeid – Mauritania – has been threatened, defamed and harassed because of his work for human rights and against slavery in Mauritania. He has been arrested and ill-treated on several occasions and in April 2012 he was “disappeared” for several weeks into a secret, high-security government facility, without being able to contact to his family and without any legal assistance. It is believed he would have been killed but for the international outcry. He was released in September 2012 but has chosen to continue his work inside Mauritania.

Ruth Mumbi – Kenya – is a passionate community mobiliser, and is the founder and current National Coordinator of Bunge la Wamama, a women’s chapter of Bunge la Mwananchi a movement that conducts strong advocacy and campaigning on issues of social justice and accountability in different parts of Kenya. She was born and still lives in Kiamaiko, a Nairobi slum and she began her involvement in community mobilisation initiatives in the late 1990s, when she was barely 16 years of age.

For further information please contact Jim Loughran, Head of Communications, Front Line Defenders
Tel +353 (0)1 212 37 50
Mobile +353 (0)87 9377586

14 men disappeared in Mauritania AI video on YouTube

March 1, 2012

If you think that the day of disappearances like in the southern cone of Latin America in the 1970-80’s are over, look at this shocking video by AI re Mauritania,

14 men disappeared in Mauritania – YouTube.