#Mauritania: Youth Tortured in Custody

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Abderrahmane Demba Diawo suffering from memory loss after torture in detention

A young man wrongfully arrested on suspicion of theft is experiencing memory loss because of tortures he endured in the Ould Yengé district detention centre. Abderrahmane Demba Diawo, 32 years old, recently arrived with his father in Nouakchott for treatment in the neuropsychiatric hospital. At the last moment he was allowed to be transferred for treatment, despite the Selibabi prosecutor failing to make a ruling.

Abderrahmane did not receive much of a welcome at the Nouakchott medical facility – perhaps because he lacked this specific judicial ruling. He was only prescribed some pills and shown the door, yet his left arm is still swollen and painful.

Mamadou Sarr, FONADH chairman who had previously released a statement on this issue, and Boubacar Ould Messaoud, chairman of SOS Slaves, were both aware of his arrival and visited the young man in Dar El Baeda, where a kind family are hosting him.

The visitors witnessed the marks now healing on his right arm and the dressing on his left arm, still tumid, and both human rights activists listened in astonishment to his father’s testimony.

How did this happen?

The father, over 60 years old, and a citizen of Gumbana in Bouly town, Ould Yengé district, explained that 5 young people were arrested after a local store was burgled during the night of Friday 24 July 2012. The shopkeeper, who had left to look after his cattle in a remote region, was informed by his wife that his shop was burgled. The man returned the next day, claiming a loss of 300 to 400 thousands Ouguiyas, jewellery and two guns.

He informed the gendarmerie at Ould Yengé, stating that the only ones able to commit this infamy are certain young men of the village who know him. Immediately, the police arrested these youths, among them Abderrahmane Diawo, arrested on the street. “Despite my insisting, the police didn’t want to hear me; worse, they threatened to bring me to jail as well” says the father.

“I followed them to Ould Yengé; the day after our arrival, it was difficult for me to recognize them, their faces had turned blue. I concluded that they were severely beaten.” Abderrahamane told the Calame journalist who came there that they were “handcuffed, then hung from the ceiling and beaten.” This is the sadly notorious “jaguar” torture techinique* which has claimed many victims in our police stations and detention centres.

After this initial “inquiry”, Abderrahmane and one other youth were released, while the other three were transferred to Selibaby and jailed. The doctors who checked Abderrahmane witnessed the deterioration of his health, especially his increasing loss of memory, and advised his father to transfer him quickly to Nouakchott. It is said that the prosecutor suggested to the father to file a claim, but he did not return the verdict requested by the parents, mandating that a specialist doctor could care for him.

According to the father’s narrative, someone named Sidi Sylla, expelled from the village after a dispute about a robbery, had accused the young men, as a way of trying to take revenge against the residents. More recently, a quarrel had reportedly occurred between Sidi Sylla’s son and one of the residents. Since his banishment, Sidi Sylla lives across the border in Mali and is said to head a gang of thugs, who cross the border to commit felonies in Mauritania before retreating to Mali, where they benefit from the collusion of the security forces. In reality, in Gumbana, everybody suspects that he is the robber.

After listening to the pathetic narrative of the old man, the human rights activists showed compassion to the family and assured them of their moral support, and later committed themselves to follow-up on the story so that the truth is told. The two civil society leaders exposed the abuses the day after the Mauritanian Parliament voted in a law strictly forbidding any form of torture.

“We have to act so that the perpetrators of these barbaric atrocities are punished. Moreover, people living in this sector and those we met there accuse the head of the Ould Yengé gendarmerie of cheating the population and punishing those who refuse to obey these illegal demands. They repeat that in this part of the country, the indigenous people have been stripped of their rights since the events of 1989.”

A reality all too common along the valley, from Ghabou to N’Diago, where administrators, military and security forces reign over the territory as if they are an occupying force. But people don’t intend to stand silent any longer in the face of this terror: they will bring the case to the judiciary and other qualified bodies and will be actively supported by all people believing in the future of the Mauritanian nation.

Original article [fr] C.R.I.D.E.M

*  “Jaguar” position. This position consists of tying the detainee’s hands and feet together, suspending him or her from an iron bar and hitting and torturing the detainee in this position. A prisoner accused of murder under ordinary law and arrested in 2003 told Amnesty International: “They tied my hands and ankles together with a rope, passed an iron bar under my knees and placed each end of the iron bar on a table, so that they could rotate it. Then they began to hit me.” The “jaguar” position, which was described by many detainees and ex-detainees, has several variants, including the suspension of detainees from the ceiling. An alleged member of the AQMI, arrested on 15 January 2008 during the investigation into the murder of four French tourists, told the Amnesty International delegation that met him in Dar Naïm prison: “They forced me to bend double, got hold of my hands and legs, and joined them under the knees at the height of the shin. They tied them together with handcuffs, then placed an iron bar under my knees and suspended me from the ceiling. They then hit me with sticks and truncheons. I regularly lost consciousness in this position.”

Source: Amnesty International Report on Torture in Mauritania, 2008 [PDF]

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