UN expert calls on Mauritania authorities to prevent torture and mistreatment of prisoners
UN expert calls on Mauritania authorities to prevent torture and mistreatment of prisoners

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez [official profile] on Thursday called [press release] on the Mauritanian authorities to protect suspects and detainees from abuse and torture while being held in the country. The call to implement already existing laws and safeguards comes after Méndez spent ten days on an official visit to the country. He was particularly concerned that there did not yet exist a legal avenue to investigate and prosecute allegations of prisoner mistreatment and torture which may result in false, coerced confessions of crimes. According to Méndez, this lapse results in the legal system’s inability to investigate the alleged abuses is in direct conflict with the UN’s National Preventive Mechanism [official summary] to end torture.

In interviews with detainees, several described some forms of coercion by police and gendarmerie at arrest and interrogation that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international law, such as beatings, threats, demeaning verbal abuse and slaps … In some testimonies that I received and consider reliable the severity of the pain and suffering endured did constitute torture, such as in prolonged solitary confinement, or stress positions or severe beatings lasting several days.

Another point of concern for Méndez was the used of unauthorized detentions facilities where prisoners suspected of terrorism are unable to procure access legal counsel for a minimum of forty five days. Méndez is expected to deliver a final, official report on his trip to Mauritania to the UN [official cite] by the end of the year.

Allegations of torture and human rights abuses of prisoners and detainees continue to be made worldwide. The High Court of Australia [official website] ruled [judgment] this week that the country’s offshore detention policy for asylum seekers is legal, rejecting a challenge that it violates [JURIST report] the Australian constitution. Also this week, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) [official website] stated [press release] that migrant detention facilities in Cyprus need better monitoring and should improve conditions [JURIST, report]. In January A court in Lisbon, Portugal, ruled [JURIST report] that a former CIA operative shall be extradited to Italy to serve a seven-year sentence for her involvement in the 2003 kidnapping and rendition of Egyptian terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. In October, Méndez urged states to protect human rights and refrain from torture [JURIST report] even when acting transnationally.