UPR Submission - Mauritania
Submission to the 23rd Session of the Universal Period Review, November 2015
Date Submitted: 23 March 2015
Summary of Key Concerns:
1. Mauritania's civil society actors and human rights defenders (HRDs) face a range of restrictions as a result of their work in the defense of human rights. HRDs working on sensitive issues, particularly those campaigning for the eradication of slavery, have become the target of the state, in particular when adopting visibility and public demonstrations as part of their strategy. Those participating in protests, sit-ins and marches have on several occasions been the subject of intimidation by police and have suffered judicial harassment.
2. The work of human rights defenders has also been undermined by the enforcement of religious laws as well as the use of fatwas against persons suspected of flouting those laws. Although the country's media environment is widely seen as one of the most open in the region, self-censorship is an issue of concern. Journalists and bloggers have at times faced arrest and prosecution for discussing sensitive matters.
Front Line Defenders calls upon the member states of the UN Human Rights Council to urge Mauritania's authorities to prioritise the protection of human rights defenders and in doing so to:
a) Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Mauritania are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment and physical violence and ensure full respect for the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
b) Ensure that an immediate, thorough and impartial investigations into all reported cases of attacks against human rights defenders is carried out, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
c) Ensure in particular that anti-slavery activists are able to carry out their work and that the alleged cases of slavery brought to the attention of the authorities are effectively investigated;
d) Revise the practical application of legislation pertaining to freedom of assembly and association and ensure that the exercise of these rights is fully guaranteed; in particular, ensure the timely issuance of registration and of permits to assemble.
e) Make public and frequent statements on the important role played by human rights defenders and journalists in Mauritania, recognising the level of risk of attack that they face in carrying out their legitimate and peaceful activities, and the government's responsibility to protect both groups through an effective protection mechanism;
f) Immediately start a dialogue with religious leaders with a view to ensure that fatwas issued against human rights defenders in relation to their legitimate human rights work are withdrawn;
g) Drop the charges currently pending against human rights defenders, and quash the convictions of those who have already been sentenced as their prosecution appears to be solely related to their peaceful and legitimate human rights work and the exercise of their fundamental freedoms;
h) Fully investigate the allegations of mistreatment and torture in detention made by human rights defenders, and take urgent measures to prevent the re-occurrence of instances of mistreatment and torture;
i) Accept and fully implement UPR recommendations on human rights defenders in a transparent and participatory manner with full involvement of human rights defenders at all levels.