UN rights expert urges Mauritania to repeal bill threatening civil society groups

A United Nations human rights expert today called upon the Mauritanian Parliament to reject a draft law on civil society associations that, without public consultations, was approved last month by the Council of Ministers.

“While I support Mauritania’s efforts to reform and improve laws that govern the work of civil society, I am concerned that the bill, as it stands, threatens the exercise of fundamental freedoms in the country, in particular the right to freedom of association,” said Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association.

“The Mauritanian Government should view civil society as a key partner in the process of reform,” he stated.

Mr. Kiai further voiced concern that, out of line with international standards, there had been no civil society consultation prior to the recently amended draft law on associations, foundations and networks of associations. “Legislation that enshrines mandatory procedures for the ‘prior authorization’ of associations instead of a simple process of ‘prior notification’ risks hindering the work of civil society in Mauritania,” he underscored.

“A prior notification process that automatically attributes an association the legal personality to function is in greater conformity with international human rights law and should be adopted by all States, including Mauritania, a€ Mr. Kiai asserted, noting that the right to freedom of association equally protects associations that are not registered.

The Special Rapporteur also warned that, if adopted, the law would provide strict punishments for vaguely worded provisions and would limit the scope of an association to the field of development work.

Mr. Kiai urged Mauritania to align its legislation with the best practices emanating from international human rights norms and standards, before its November 2015 examination by the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.

“I stand ready to offer technical assistance to both the Government and legislators in this endeavour,” the rights expert added.

Mr. Kiai’s appeal has been endorsed by two other independent UN Special Rapporteurs, namely David Kaye, on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, and Michel Forst, on the situation of human rights defenders.

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