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Amnesty International urges Mauritania’s presidential candidates to abolish slavery

Remnants of traditional slavery have become a major issue in Mauritania even after its official abolition in 1981

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Amnesty International urges Mauritania's slavery abolition
(File photo)

Amnesty International on Monday led some 30 other rights groups in Mauritania in asking the candidates in the presidential election later this month to end slavery and violence against women in the country.

Six candidates are in the running in the June 22 election to choose a successor to President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is stepping down after his second and final term in office.

Remnants of traditional slavery have become a major issue in Mauritania, a deeply conservative, predominantly Muslim state, although it was officially abolished in 1981. 

In 2015, Mauritania adopted a new law declaring slavery a “crime against humanity” punishable by up to 20 years in jail. It also set up three specialised anti-slavery tribunals but prosecutions have been rare.

Under a generations-old system of servitude, members of a “slave” caste are forced to work without pay, typically as cattle herders and domestic servants.

No official figures exist for those still enslaved, but some non-governmental organisations estimate that up to 43,000 people remained in bondage in 2016, accounting for around one per cent of the population.

Amnesty and 30 NGOs based in Mauritania  urged the six candidates to sign up to a manifesto with 12 commitments to protect human rights.

These include scrapping a law granting “amnesty to alleged perpetrators of abuses, torture, illegal detention, extrajudicial killings and mass expulsions of Afro-Mauritanians,” and ending “slavery, human trafficking and discriminatory practices,” the Amnesty statement said.

It asked them to pledge that “resources will be allocated to the police and the judiciary to enable them to properly address reported cases of exploitation, identify and locate the perpetrators, and prosecute and punish them through fair trials without resorting to the death penalty.”

The other points touch on gender violence, an end to cultural and social discrimination, ensuring freedom of expression, and stopping torture.

Mauritania has a population of 4.5 million of African, Arabic and Berber heritage and black Africans often face discrimination.

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North Africa

Jailed Egyptian ex-president Morsi dies after court collapse

“He was speaking before the judge for 20 minutes then became very animated and fainted.” -Judicial source

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Jailed Egyptian ex-president Morsi dies after court collapsing
Ousted (now late) Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Ahmed Omar / Anadolu Agency

Former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi died on Monday in a Cairo hospital after fainting during a session in court, judicial and security sources said.

“He was speaking before the judge for 20 minutes then became very animated and fainted. He was quickly rushed to the hospital where he later died,” a judicial source said.

The official Al-Ahram news website also reported the death of Morsi, who was Egypt’s first democratically elected president but spent just one turbulent year in office after the 2011 uprising before the army toppled him in July 2013.

While he was president, Morsi issued a temporary constitutional declaration that granted him unlimited powers and the power to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts as a pre-emptive move against the expected dissolution of the second constituent assembly by the Mubarak-era judges.

The new constitution that was then hastily finalised by the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly, presented to the president, and scheduled for a referendum, before the Supreme Constitutional Court could rule on the constitutionality of the assembly, was described by independent press agencies not aligned with the regime as an “Islamist coup”.

This led to an uproar that contributed to his government being ousted by Abdelfatah Al-Sisi, the incumbent president.

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Africa News & Updates

Two paramilitary officers and a soldier killed in an ambush in Mali

The two paramilitary officers were killed on Sunday when an improvised explosive device blew up as they walked near the entrance of a military post

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Two paramilitary officers and a soldier killed in an ambush in Mali

Two Malian paramilitary officers were killed by a mine explosion outside a military base and a soldier died in an ambush in the north of the country, the armed forces said on Monday. Since French troops helped force out jihadists in 2013, parts of northern Mali remain out of control of security forces and violence has spread to other areas of the country.

The two paramilitary officers were killed on Sunday when an improvised explosive device blew up as they walked near the entrance of a military post in Sokolo in the central Segou region, Mali’s armed forces said on Twitter.

In a separate incident in the north, an army patrol escorting civilians was ambushed between Niafounke and Tonka, around 100 km south of Timbuktu, the army said. It said one soldier was killed and another wounded in the exchange.

Attacks in Mali are mostly in the north. But since 2015 violence has also hit the centre and south of the country. Along with militant attacks and militia violence, Mali also struggles with intercommunal and ethnic clashes.

Earlier this month, an attack on Sobane Da village in the centre of Mali killed 35 people in an ethnic Dogon enclave in the diverse Mopti region. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appealed for calm after the attack sparked fears of a tit-for-tat cycle of ethnic killing.

Malian army bases are also often attacked. Eleven soldiers were killed in April by suspected jihadists who attacked a post in Guire in the centre of the country, and in March an assault on the Dioura military camp killed nearly 30 soldiers.

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Africa News & Updates

Key Bouteflika ally, Ali Haddad jailed for six months in Algeria

Haddad, who owns Algeria’s largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed

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Ali Haddad, pro-Bouteflika businessman and main funders of Bouteflika's electoral campaigns is seen in a car after arrested

A key backer of Algeria’s former leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika and one of the country’s top businessmen, Ali Haddad, was jailed for six months Monday for holding two passports, state television reported. Haddad was arrested in late March on the border with Tunisia, in possession of two passports and undeclared currency, days before Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests.

Haddad, who owns Algeria’s largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed since the president stepped down. He was found guilty of the “unjustified procurement of administrative documents” and also fined 50,000 dinars, state television reported.

Described by Forbes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire. The businessman had denied breaking the law and said he obtained his second passport legally after seeking an interview with the then prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

The ex-premier and Haddad are among many businessmen and former politicians caught up in a separate anti-corruption investigation launched since the president stepped down. Earlier this month Haddad’s lawyer, Khaled Bourayou, decried a “political trial” and told journalists the passport case had no legal basis.

The sentence is significantly lower than the 18 months term and a fine of 100,000 dinars requested by the prosecutor. Hassane Boualem, then director of titles and secure documents at the interior ministry, was given a two-month suspended sentence and fined 20,000 for issuing Haddad’s second passport in 2016.

He told the court he was following the orders of his superiors – interior ministry head Hocine Mazouz, Sellal and Algeria’s current premier Noureddine Bedoui – who were not investigated over the affair.

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