The Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian

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Date: 1986

Region: Africa

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Print Journalism

Artist: 30 Intellectuals

Confronting Bodies: Mauritanian Government

Dates of Action: September 1986

Location: Mauritania

Description of Artwork: In September 1986, a group of 30 black intellectuals criticized racial discrimination and the plans of the beydanes to take over land in the south belonging to blacks in a document called The Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian

The Incident: Twenty-one people were arrested, savagely tortured, condemned to long prison sentences after a grossly unfair trial and held under harsh conditions, without access to their families or to medical facilities. Amnesty International reported in its Annual Report of 1987: 'They were charged with holding unauthorized meetings, displaying and distributing material harmful to the national interest, and making racialist propaganda. They were convicted on all charges...The trial lasted less than a day. The defendants were denied access to defense lawyers before the trial and the defense lawyers were given insufficient time to examine the prosecution dossiers and withdrew from the trial in protest when their request for more time was rejected. The defendants were apparently convicted largely on the basis of statements they had made while detained incommunicado in police custody. Several of the defendants were reported to have alleged in court that they had been tortured or ill-treated in detention and one woman defendant stated that she had been raped by a senior police officer at the time of her arrest, but the court apparently failed to investigate these allegations. Four were sentenced to six-month prison terms and 17 to four and five-year prison sentences, with fines, to be followed by five and 10 years internal exile and; loss of civil rights. The heaviest sentences were opposed on Ibrahima Sarr, a journalist, Abdoulaye Barry, an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahima Sall, a lecturer at the University of Nouakchott, and Tene Youssouf Gueye, a writer and poet who was reported to have intended to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming elections.

Results of Incident: The Court of Appeal threw out their appeals even though the government did not challenge the appeals in four of the cases. There were demonstrations in different parts of the country, in protest against the trials. The government's response was to arrest more than 100 people. Some of the accused were imprisoned, both in order to punish them for their support of the black defendants and to serve notice on all blacks about the high risk of opposition to Arab/Berber domination. At least forty people were given prison sentence, between eight months and five years.

Source: Human Rights Watch/Africa Watch, "Mauritania Persecution of Black Mauritanians", September 7, 1989, Pg. 8-9