The International Federation for Human Rights on Wednesday denounced extrajudicial killings, repression, torture and other rights abuses in Mauritania.
“If, under the regime of (President) Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, people dare to exercise their rights, they are often victims of repression, arrest and imprisonment,” read a joint report with the Mauritania Human Rights Association published Wednesday. President Aziz is a controversial figure who seized power in a military coup after the president he helped to install tried to dismiss him. Aziz then resigned from the military to run for president. His actions cause international outrage and most sources of international funding were frozen or withdrawn. With the support of influential figures such as the late Colonel Gadaffi in Libya and the former French President Sarkozy, he was able to persuade the IMF, World Bank, African Union and other interested groups to reinstate their support. He has further cemented his standing in the international community by championing the very lucrative “war on terror” and occasionally supplying jailed terrorists for hostage swaps.
The rights bodies said the indefinite postponement of legislative and local elections in 2011, which led to protests from the opposition, could be linked to these rights violations.
The report denounced “extrajudicial killings, excessive and fatal use of force, violence while trying to maintain order, arrests and arbitrary arrests, acts of torture … and unjust judicial procedures.”
The two most recent extrajudicial killings happened right around the time Aziz was injured, in what is officially described as an accidental shooting, on 13 October 2012. Both were prisoners who died under torture. The fate of a third prisoner who was said to have been taken to the Nouakchott military hospital is unknown. You can be certain he was not airlifted to France for treatment, which is what happened to president Aziz.
“The consolidation of a democratic regime must pass through a balancing of power and the organisation as soon as possible of free and fair legislative elections and the strengthening of judicial independence,” the report said.
It also called for the end of impunity for those implicated in atrocities against black Mauritanians under former president Maaouiya Ould Taya, who was in power for 21 years until a 2005 coup.
Political anger has simmered in the large, arid north-west African nation since current leader Abdel Aziz seized power in another military coup in 2008.
Despite his election as a civilian candidate a year later, the opposition has never accepted his rule as legitimate and continue to demand widespread political reforms and adherence to the Dakhar agreement of 2008.
On Wednesday the opposition boycotted celebrations of the country’s 52nd anniversary of independence from France to protest his regime.
Protests have multiplied in the country since 25 February 2011, when the “Arab Spring” erupted in the Maghreb and Egypt, and the opposition’s calls for Abdel Aziz to step down have increased in recent weeks, after an initial pause out of respect for concern over his health. A mass march, one week ago, attracted an estimated 100,000 people in the country’s capital, Nouakchott. Here’s a video:
The 55-year-old leader returned on Saturday from his 40-day convalescence in France. His supporters rallied to greet him at the airport, joined by others, who were cajoled, bribed and ordered to attend to ensure a large crowd, but the reception was immediately followed by a rash of independent protests by various groups demanding their rights.
One such group is protesting to demand to know the location of their relatives, a group of prisoners held incommunicado since April 2011 in a secret prison on charges related to terrorism or endangering national security. Others include unemployed workers in a mining area, Zouerate; teachers who have been arbitrarily reassigned to new schools, many in remote areas of the country; students demanding improvements to their dilapidated university and an updated curriculum, and who have not had any increase in their grants despite rising costs of education; suppliers to the government, protesting unfair treatment by the ministry; political opposition who were denied a licence for a rally on Independence day; residents of R’kiz [Arkiz], a small town where three babies died on Monday after being vaccinated against measles, demanding government action and an immediate investigation; and members of a group that formed in April 2011 to protest against racial inequality in the administration of the new registration programme. This last group was thought to have been mollified by changes to the programme agreed last year, but reappeared on the anniversary of independence on 1960, which is also the anniversary of the 1991 execution by the armed forces of 28 Mauritanian men of black African descent.
Mauritanians face many issues, yet they are also sympathetic to other causes, as shown in this video from the 16 November mass march and rally, when they said prayers for Gaza during the most recent exchange of bombardment with Israel.
Includes content from AFP via ReliefWeb.