The Case of the "Islamists" : Torture in the name of the Fight Against Terrorism

In their report entitled “Mauritania : The Case of the “Islamists”, Torture in the name of the Fight Against Terrorism”, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) together with its member organisation in Mauritania, l’Association Mauritanienne des droits de l’Homme (AMDH), provides the evidence of a systematic practice of torture in cases of presumed terrorist acts.

The present report documents that between 2003 and 2007, nearly 160 people described as "islamists" were arrested by the deposed regime of Ould Taya, or by the transitional authorities of the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, for crimes of "threat against State security » and « acts of terrorism ». The FIDH mission present in Nouakchott in February 2007, met with 24 presumed terrorists who were still in prison and were waiting for their trial.
They all testified to have been victims of torture perpetrated by the police during custody, aiming at extorting confessions. In addition, collected testimonies are self-speaking : "one cut me the muscles of my thighs with a saw"; explained one of them, "one burned me on many places of my body with cigarettes."

The "Case of islamists" was also symptomatic of the violations of the fair trial guarantees in the particular context of the fight against terrorism, such as secret detentions, systematic extension of custody’s legal period, and the absence of lawyer during the preliminary phase of investigation.

In this respect, while insisting on the need to fight against terrorism, FIDH and AMDH welcomed the rulings of the criminal Court of Nouakchott, during its session held from May to July 2007, invalidating the confessions obtained under torture.

The report includes a number of recommendations to the Mauritanian authorities, including
the criminalization of torture in national law, the reform of the « Code de procédure pénale » to frame and control the period of custody and to impose since this stage the presence of lawyer, and the opening of an investigation on every act of torture and the prosecution of the perpetrators;
FIDH and AMDH also recommend the authorities to set up a commission allowing all victims and their families to know the truth on acts of torture perpetrated since independence, to obtain repair of their damage and to prosecute the perpetrators.

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