Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir should have been freed one year ago
9 November 2018
What are the Mauritanian authorities waiting for to free Mohamed Mkhaïtir? While the Court of Appeal released him on November 9th 2017, the Mauritanian blogger accused of apostasy is still being held in an unknown place. 32 human rights organizations are campaigning for his release and protection.
Read the press release in English
Mohammed Sheikh Ould Mkhaitir was arrested on 2 January 2014 and sentenced to death for apostasy by the Nouadhibou Criminal Court. The 35-year-old man is accused of publishing a blog post in December 2013 on slavery and discrimination, particularly against the blacksmiths' caste of which he is a member.
Since the beginning, the case has aroused strong reactions from the Mauritanian population. Large-scale demonstrations (including one that benefited from the benevolence of the President of the Republic) took place throughout the country to demand the blogger's execution for "blasphemy".
" Instead of respecting the court decision, the authorities refuse to reveal where Mohamed Mkhaïtir is and deny him contacts with the outside world. This amounts to incommunicado detention, which is a serious violation of human rights. The authorities must put an end to this arbitrary detention, release Mohamed Mkhaïtir and ensure his safety. "
Fatimata Mbaye, human rights defender and local lawyer of the blogger.
This was the first death sentence for apostasy since Mauritania's independence in 1960. The sentence was upheld on appeal, despite two appeals of repentance, and the reclassification of the facts as misconduct. The Supreme Court was asked to rule on the veracity of the repentance: it quashed the judgment of the Court of Appeal on 31 January 2017 on procedural grounds, referring the case back to a differently composed Court of Appeal. This new trial took place on 8 and 9 November 2017. The verdict is finally the blogger's sentence of two years in prison and a fine of about 150 euros. Since he has already been in prison for four years, his sentence is served: he is immediately releasable. Popular demonstrations then resumed in style.
Mohamed Mkhaitir was then taken to an unknown place, under police escort, with the Mauritanian authorities claiming his own safety. Within a week, no news: his situation is unknown to his family and lawyers alike.
Since then, Mohamed Mkhaïtir's lawyers have repeatedly asked to visit him, but the Minister of Justice has not replied. The man is reported to be in poor health and in need of urgent medical care.
In May 2018, 21 national and international NGOs were already calling for an end to arbitrary detention and for the safety of blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir to be guaranteed. They also called on the Mauritanian authorities to repeal the recent law on apostasy offences, which makes the death penalty mandatory for "blasphemous statements" and "sacrilegious acts". The adoption of such a text constitutes a real step backwards, removing the prospect of abolition for this country, which has not carried out any executions since 1987 and has not even ratified many international human rights treaties.
Recall on Mauritania :
- De facto abolitionist: no executions since 1987
- No death sentences or executions in 2016
- 77 prisoners on death row
- Mauritania abstained from the last vote on the UN resolution for a universal moratorium on executions