Urgent Interventions

Mauritania: further arrests and continuing political and religiously motivated detentions

Case MRT 080503.1
Follow-up of Case MRT 080503
Arbitrary detention / Incommunicado detention

Geneva, May 15th, 2003

The International Secretariat of OMCT has received new information regarding the following situation in Mauritania.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l'Homme, a member of the OMCT network, and another reliable source, of the additional arrests, charges, and continued incommunicado detention of religious and political figures in Mauritania.

According to the information received, on May 11th, 2003, ten members of the NOUHOUD party, Mohamed Abdallah Ould Eya, Mohamed El Kory Ould El Arby, Horma Ould Mohamed Mahmoud, Mohamed Radhy Ould Naha, Ahmed Ould Oubeid, Ahmedou Ould Brahim, Mohamed Ould Radhy, Cheikhna Ould Hijbou, Sidi Ahmed Ould El Kory, and Ahmed Ould Bah, were brought before the Public Prosecutor and charged with unlawful assembly and reconstituting a previously-dissolved political party. The examining magistrate, who was appointed by the Public Prosecutor, then issued a detention order for the accused. A group of 40 lawyers has been appointed to ensure their defence. According to the information received, there is a risk that the detainees may be sent by the Supreme Court to face trial in by a provincial judge, ensuring that the trial is held far away from their families and legal counsel.

Lawyer and former minister Me Khatry Ould Taleb Jiddou, who was he eleventh member of the NOUHOUD party to be arrested on April 30th, was released on May 3rd, 2003. Another party member, Brahim Ould Mohamed Saghir, was reportedly arrested on May 6th, 2003.

According to the same sources, the Mayor of Arafat, Mohamed Jemil Ould Mansour, and the eight Imams arrested on May 5th and 6th, Mohamed Lemine Ould El Moustapha, Mohamed Lemine Ould Ismail, Mohamed Ould Doua, Sidina Ould Radhy, Khaled Ould Isselmou, Hamoud Ould Dhou Nourayne Abdarrahmane Ould Sabarm and Sidi Amar Ould Cheikhna, continue be detained incommunicado. The have not been allowed family visits or meetings with their legal counsel. Their lawyers met with the prosecutor on May 13th, 2003, and demanded that they be released or appear in court, as the permitted maximum detention period in police custody, including extensions, has expired. The prosecutor responded by promising to follow the case and ensure that the law was respected.

On the same day - May 13th, 2003 - the detainees’ wives went to the National Assembly to make the members aware of their spouses’ situation. The police intervened, attempting to remove the women, and a confrontation ensued. Three men that were accompanying the women - Yahifdhou Ould Mohazmed Mahmoud, Atta Ould Mohamed Ahmed and Abdel Kader Ouild Abdallahi – were reportedly arrested at this time. In addition, another Imam, Mohamed Yeslem Ould Khtoura was reportedly arrested on May 12th, 2003. Faced with this wave of religious arrests, 90 Imams and important religious figures have written to the President to demand the detainees' release.

OMCT is seriously concerned by the recent wave of arbitrary arrests that has occurred in Mauritania, and in particular for the physical and psychological integrity of all the detainees, notably those being detained incommunicado, due to the heightened risk of ill-treatment and/or torture that this entails. OMCT calls on the government of Mauritania to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the detainees, to allow them to receive family visits and have access to legal counsel and medical assistance. OMCT also calls for the immediate release of all detainees in the absence of valid legal charges that are in line with international law, or, if such charges exist, to ensure that they receive a prompt and fair trial.

Brief reminder of the situation

Eleven members of the Ba'athist party NOUHOUD were arrested between April 30th and May 3rd, 2003, without warrants or issuing specified charges. The police conducted a search of the NOUHOUD headquarters on April 30th, 2003 at 11:00 pm without a search warrant, and, on May 3rd at 11:00 am, the police proceeded to close the party's headquarters.

On May 4th, 2003, Mohamed Jemil Ould Mansour, the mayor of a large district in Nouakchott, and a committee member of one of the major opposition parties, le Rassemblement des Forces Démocratiques (RFD) , was arrested. Professor Cheikh Mohamed El Hacen Ould Dedew was arrested in Nouadhibout on May 5th at 10:00 am and transferred to Nouakchott that same day. Eight Imams serving the Nouakchott district were also arbitrarily arrested on May 5th and 6th.

The sweeping arrest of religious leaders in Nouakchott comes on the heels of an end of April meeting between the Minister of Islamic Affairs (le Ministre de l'orientation islamique) and several hundred Imams. During the meeting the Minister threatened the Imams, insisting that they follow his instructions. The Imams denounced the Minister's demands at their respective sermons on Friday, May 2nd, 2003. The Minister was fired following these events.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Mauritania urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the afore-mentioned persons;
ii. order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges, or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
iii. guarantee that the detainees be granted access to legal representation and family visits;
iv. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


Note: if you have any problems getting through to the fax numbers mentioned below, please make sure you send a copy of your letters to the Ambassador in Geneva.

§ Mr. Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, Président de la République, La Présidence, BP 184 Nouakchott, Mauritanie, Fax: 222 525 26 36

§ Mr. Dah Ould Abdel Jelil, Ministre de l'Intérieur, Des Postes et Télécommunications, BP 195 Nouakchott, Mauritanie, Fax: 222 525 36 61

§ Mr. Lemrabott Sidi Mahmoud Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Ministre de la Justice, Ministère de la Justice, BP 350 Nouakchott, Mauritanie, Fax: 222 525 70 02

§ Mr. Mohamed Saleck Ould Mohamed Lemine, Ambassador, Permanent Mission to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, Avenue Blanc 46, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland; fax: 022 9061841; e-mail:

Please also write to the embassies of Mauritania in your respective country.

Geneva, May 15th, 2003

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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