Mauritania: Authorities Need To Respect Freedom Of Expression, Release Mkhaitir Immediately
Published on 07 NOV 2017
Skyline International condemns the ongoing detention of the Mauritanian blogger and writer Mohamed Sheikh Ibn Mkhaitir by Mauritanian judicial authorities three years ago. In addition to the previous capital punishment by Criminal Court in Nouadhibou on December 24, 2014, Ibn Mkhaitir was charged with heresy and abuse of the Prophet because of his article entitled (religion, faith and teachers). The ruling is based on article 306 of the Mauritanian Criminal Code, which derives its provisions from Islamic law.
On 21 April 2016, the Court of Appeal confirmed capital punishment against Ibn Mkhaitir. While the Forum of Imams and Scholars, which has a strong influence in Mauritania, had issued a fatwa calling for the killing of Mkhaitir. Despite the repentance of Mkhaitir to justice and his firm denial that he intended to abuse the Prophet and that his article was misunderstood, the accusation diverted from being heresy to apostasy but the capital punishment was not dropped. The High Court then ruled on January 31, 2017 to annul all previous procedures issued by the Court of Appeal, which proved the writer’s death sentence and turned the case to a new judicial committee to review the sentence against the blogger.
Skyline International calls on the Criminal Court in Nouadhibou to release Mkhaitir, to repeal and drop all charges against him. November 8, 2017 the Court of Appeal will hold a special session in the case of Mkhaitir. It demands to repeal Article 306 of the Mauritanian Criminal Code, which rules the death penalty as a punishment for heresy, in addition to all the provisions of the Penal Code in Mauritania, which seek to eliminate the freedom of opinion and expression. This is a clear violation of the international laws and treaties protecting freedom of speech and opinion by the Mauritanian authorities, which Mauritania agreed to in 2004, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for the protection offreedom of thought, opinion and expression by all signatory states.
This ruling contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in article 18 that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes the freedom to change one’s religion or belief and the freedom to manifest his religion through worship, teaching and religious observance alone or in association with others, in public or in private. Article 19 of the same law guarantees everyone the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The blogger Mkhaitir is said to have been reflecting in his article the marginalized class and defending the interests of poor social classes, who are subjected to the oppression of the ruling authorities in Mauritania. The article was not intended to abuse religion or the Prophet. Mohammed belongs to a group of teachers which is said to be constantly and increasingly defamed by clergymen in Mauritania.