At UN, Humanists International and Cheikh Mkhaitir call on Mauritania to release human rights defenders

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 9 марта 2020

Today at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists International delivered a statement on behalf of Mauritanian writer, Mohamed Cheikh Mkhaitir, calling for the Mauritanian government to cease the harassment of human rights defenders and to release those under arrest.

The statement, written by Mkhaitir – who himself was released from a Mauritanian jail last year after six years in detention – highlighted the case of four Mauritanian human rights defenders, who for the past few weeks, have been under arrest on charges of insulting Allah and the Prophet, a charge which carries executions under Article 306 of the Mauritanian Penal Code.

Mohamed Cheikh Mkhaitir

Abd al-Rahman Haddad, Ahmad Muhammad al-Mukhtar, Othman Muhammad Al Habib and Amin Houd were arrested shortly after they announced their desire to found a “secular Mauritanian movement.”

It is believed that the arrest of these human rights activists is an attempt to silence them by punishing them for defending human rights and advocating secularism.

Mkhaitir’s statement said, “people who defend human rights are not criminals. They are activists whose political rights and freedom of speech must be guaranteed.

“We call on this Council to take urgent action against the harassment and arrest of human rights defenders in Mauritania and around the world.”

Mkhaitir was due to attend the UN Human Rights Council as a delegate of Humanists International and make the statement in person. However, France – where he is currently seeking asylum – has yet to grant him his papers giving him the right to travel, despite Humanists International pressing it to do so.

Mkhaitir was released from prison in August 2019 after 6 years detention for blasphemy. He has been in France since, seeking asylum and the right to remain.

Mkhaitir’s full statement can be found below:


ORAL STATEMENT

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 43rd Session (24th February – 20th March 2020)

General Debate Item 3

Speaker: Mahalet Tadesse
on behalf of Mohamed Cheikh Mkhaitir

 

We are deeply concerned that blasphemy laws are routinely used by some countries as a blunt instrument to silence human rights defenders.

One case that exemplifies how blasphemy laws are being politically used to silence dissidents and to discriminate against minorities is the arrest of four Mauritanian human rights defenders.

For the past few weeks, Abd al-Rahman Haddad, Ahmad Muhammad al-Mukhtar, Othman Muhammad Al Habib and Amin Houd have been under arrest on charges of insulting Allah and the Prophet, a charge which carries executions under Article 306 of the Mauritanian Penal Code.

The arrest of these Mauritanian activists came shortly after they announced their desire to found a “secular Mauritanian movement”. We ask: since when has the call to defend human rights and freedom of religion become an insult to anyone?

We believe that the arrest of these human rights activists is an attempt to silence them by punishing them for defending human rights and advocating secularism.

Madame President, people who defend human rights are not criminals. They are activists whose political rights and freedom of speech must be guaranteed. We call on this Council to take urgent action against the harassment and arrest of human rights defenders in Mauritania and around the world.

I deliver this statement on behalf of Mohamed Cheikh Mkhaitir, a Mauritanian blogger who was prosecuted for insulting the Prophet after he published an article criticizing racial discrimination in his home country Mauritania. He is a political refugee in France, but sadly couldn’t be here to deliver it himself because he has yet to be granted his right to travel.


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