Mauritania: Rights & Democracy denounces assault and attempted kidnapping of leading rights defender

Montreal, April 9, 2009—Rights & Democracy denounces the assault and attempted kidnapping of Boubacar Messaoud, President of SOS-Esclaves and Commissioner of the Commission nationale des droits de l’homme de Mauritanie, the Mauritanian human rights commission, by state police.

Boubacar Messaoud was assaulted and brutalized on April 2 by police on the streets of Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, during a demonstration organized to protest presidential elections scheduled for June. Representatives of opposition political parties and civil society organizations, including human rights organizations, took part in the rally. A number of demonstrators, mainly political opponents, were also beaten by the police. According to reports, Mr. Messaoud was there as an observer designated by the Mauritanian human rights commission.

“The news that we are hearing out of Mauritania are very disturbing. The government has a duty to protect its citizens and this unacceptable action puts the credibility of national institutions in doubt,” stated Rémy M. Beauregard, President of Rights & Democracy (the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development).

Rights & Democracy demands that the military junta in power respect the human rights of its citizens, including the right to demonstrate and their right to express their political opinions in public. Rights & Democracy also demands that the Mauritanian military regime cease all acts of repression against human rights defenders and conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and regional and international human rights instruments ratified by Mauritania.