July 17th, 2002
8 the Court of Appeals of the city of Nîmes (France) decided
to indict the Mauritanian captain Ely Ould Dah and send him
before the highest Criminal Court for acts of torture committed
in Mauritania on Negro Mauritanian citizens between 1990 and
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the
French League of Human Rights (LDH) welcome the decision taken
by the Nîmes Court of Appeals and believe that this new
step gives a new hope to the Mauritanian victims supported by
the FIDH and the LDH since 1999.
The July 8 decision is an essential move in the effective implementation
of the principle of universal jurisdiction in that it confirms,
inter alia that :
- "Article 689-2 of the criminal procedure code
gives jurisdiction to the French tribunal to prosecute or judge,
when found on the French territory, anyone who, outside of the
territory of the Republic, has committed a crime or an offense
which constitutes tortures and other cruel or degrading treatment
or punishment, pursuant to article 1 of the New York Convention
of December 10, which entered into force in France since June
- The acts were committed in the context of " an ethnic
cleansing" and a massive campaign of repression organized
by the Mauritanian government in power at that time
- Recognizing the applicability in France of a foreign amnesty
law would be tantamount for the national authorities to violate
its international obligations duly ratified and to empty the
principle of universal jurisdiction of its goal
- Decides the indictment of Ely Ould Dah before the criminal
court in GARD (France)".
While the FIDH and the LDH recently witnessed the systematic
and characterized use of torture in Mauritania, this decision
represents an immense hope for Mauritanian victims but also
for those who, every day, fight against impunity in the world.
Unsurprisingly, Ely Ould Dah just announced that he was challenging
the decision before the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation).
A final obstacle needs therefore to be won before Ely Ould Dah
be asked to answer for his crimes before a criminal court.
The FIDH and the LDH are however confident that such a trial
will take place and express their determination in putting all
efforts to allow justice for the victims of Ely Ould Dah.
FACTS AND PROCEDURE ON THE ELY OULD DAH CASE
of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania have been denounced as
being responsible for many cases of torture and ill treatment
on a large scale, especially against black Mauritanians.
Starting in 1986, many black officers of the Mauritanian army,
all Negro-Africans, were arrested, executed, poisoned or condemned
to hard labor and tortured.
In November 1990, claiming a conspiracy had been hatched (it
was never proven), authorities arrested and tortured several
thousands of black Mauritanian soldiers, junior officers and
civil servants. At least 310 of them were killed in atrocious
conditions: they were either buried or burned alive, two vehicles
quartered some and others yet were hanged. At the end of March
1991, the survivors were released, 312 of them being discharged
for misconduct but none were tried. In May 1993, those responsible
for the massacres were granted amnesty and as a result could
not be tried for their crimes.
Captain Ely Ould Dah, an intelligence officer at the Jreida
prison army base, was in charge of recording the confessions
of black Mauritanian army personnel. The lawsuit in question
was filed on behalf of the victims (there were two) who were
tortured in Jreida prison in 1990 and 1991. Ely Ould Dah, captain
in the Mauritanian army, is accused of being one of those responsible
for torturing black Mauritanian army personnel. The survivors
were freed at the end of April 1991. Some survivors decided
to leave Mauritania to seek political asylum in France.
· June 8, 1999: the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme and the
FIDH files an action against Ely Ould Dah in Montpellier, under
article 689-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which stipulates
that charges can be pressed in French courts (universal jurisdiction)
for torture provided by article 222-1 of the Criminal Code,
in accordance with the 1984 Convention on Torture.
· July 2, 1999: Ely Ould Dah is imprisoned and subsequently
released on September 28, 1999 and placed under judicial supervision
· April 5, 2000: Ely Ould Dah escapes to Mauritania.
An investigation is conducted to ascertain the circumstances
of his escape.
May 25 2001: the investigative Magistrate renders a decision
of indictment against Ely Ould Dah. The magistrate orders a
trial before the criminal court (Cour d'assise).
2001: Ely Ould Dah's lawyer appeals the indictment decision.
The legal character of this procedure is doubtful because it
might have been filed after the deadline. The notification of
the decision of accusation itself is also doubtful.
8, 2001: the Montpellier Court of Investigation declares the
appeal inadmissible due to its delay. Ely Ould Dah's lawyer
files an appeal against this decision.
2002: the Criminal Court of the Cour de Cassation broke the
decision of the Court of Investigation of Montpellier and sent
the case to the Court of Appeals of Nîmes.