ECPM and AMDH participated in the 126th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee
18 July 2019
On 4 and 5 July 2019, representatives of ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) and the Mauritanian Human Rights Association (AMDH) were in Geneva to follow up on the recommendations made in the Fact-Finding Mission Report. Prior to the session, the AMDH, ECPM and Planète Réfugiés Droits de l'Homme (PRDH) submitted an alternative report focusing mainly on the right to life and the excessive use of force, torture, detention conditions and the administration of justice.
After participating in the informal NGO briefing organized by the CCPR Centre, the representatives attended the examination of Mauritania's report by the Human Rights Committee. They were also able to organize some advocacy meetings.
During the informal NGO Briefing, additional information was provided to members of the Human Rights Committee, including on the place of Sharia law in the domestic legislative order and the criminalization of adultery and homosexuality punishable by the death penalty under the Criminal Code.
During the session, the members of the Human Rights Committee raised a considerable number of questions relating to the right to life and the application of the death penalty, the lack of disaggregated statistics to provide an overview of the situation of prisoners sentenced to death, the administration of justice, torture, overcrowding in prisons, access to a doctor and a lawyer for persons deprived of their liberty. It was recalled that access to a lawyer from the very first hours of police custody is not only an individual's right but also a State obligation.
One of the members of the Committee, Mr. Ben Achour, noted in his first intervention that there was not always a perfect match between the international human rights system and a certain application of Sharia law.
"To consider Sharia law as the only source of law is to deny the international human rights system."
Mr. Ben Achour, Committee Member
He added that "the reform of article 306 of the Criminal Code was not only contrary to international law but also contrary to Sharia law. "The Delegation was asked to specify the measures that the authorities intended to take and the time frame within which this provision should be brought into line with international law.
He also asked the Delegation to clarify the fate of Mohamed M'Kheitir. The Delegation of the Mauritanian authorities replied that he was not arbitrarily detained but that he was being held to ensure his safety pursuant to an order of the Ministry of the Interior and that on the day his safety conditions were restored, he would be released. Members of the Human Rights Committee replied that administrative detention should only apply when there is a risk to the protection of populations and not to the protection of an individual, that it is not in accordance with international law to ensure the protection of a person against his or her own will.
In addition, one of the Committee members raised the issue of access to a lawyer for most death row inmates in prisons far from the capital.
The members of the Human Rights Committee expressed their concern about the large number of crimes punishable by the death penalty and the criminalization of homosexuality punishable by the death penalty. They also expressed concern about the fate of those facing the death penalty in a country under moratorium, especially since the last commutation of the sentence was in 2016. They were also concerned about the extent to which training of judicial, police and prison staff took into account the gender dimension.
The Mauritanian authorities may provide additional information within 48 hours, after which the Human Rights Committee will submit its concluding observations before the end of July 2019.