The United States is gravely concerned about specific accusations of abuse and torture that were made during the trial of 23 persons arrested following June 29th riots in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania.
The arrests followed a protest against eviction by residents of a squatter camp in the capital, many of whom are former slaves. The protest turned violent, when demonstrators threw stones and burned a police bus. Nine police and other Mauritanian citizens were injured. The United States condemns the serious injuries and associated property damage.
The United States is concerned with reports of coerced confessions or statements obtained through torture, raising serious concerns as to whether each accused individual received a fair trial. The U.S. will closely follow an anticipated appeal process. Among those sentenced are thirteen members of the Resurgence of Abolitionist Movement, an organization championing the anti-slavery movement in Mauritania.
Mauritania was the last country in the world to officially abolish slavery in 1981. Nevertheless, slavery continues in the West African nation where an estimated 4 to 20 percent of Mauritania’s 3.5 million people are enslaved.
The United States urges an immediate and comprehensive investigation into all credible allegations of torture, public release of the findings of this investigations, and appropriate prosecution of any individuals whom the investigation finds were responsible for such acts.
Mauritania enshrined its commitment against torture by characterizing it as a crime against humanity in the 2012 revision of the Mauritanian Constitution, and in April of this year established in law the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, which has been partially staffed but not fully funded.
The United States strongly encourages Mauritania to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression and association, for all Mauritanians. The U.S. supports fair trial guarantees, transparent and credible judicial processes, and respect for the human rights of all individuals.