UN concerned about Mauritanian rights activist after fatwa ruling

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A delegate reads the Koran. UN Photo/Stuart Price

A fatwa issued against a prominent Mauritanian human rights activist has raised the alarm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The fatwa, an Islamic religious ruling, was handed down by the movement known as 'Friends of the prophet", declaring that "whoever kills her or tears out her eyes will be rewarded by God."

Ms Aminetou Mint El-Moctar was targeted because she publicly demanded a fair trial procedure for Mohamed Ould M'Kaitir, a young Mauritanian man awaiting trial on charges of apostasy since January.

Apostasy is the act of deserting one's religion which is punishable by death.

Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Because of the nature of the charges, no lawyers have been willing to come forward to defend Mr. Ould M'Kaitir, effectively making it impossible at present for him to be given a fair trial. The horrendous threats against Ms. Mint El-Moctar, simply for pointing this out, starkly underline the importance of her public call that a fair trial must be ensured, and illustrate how difficult that will be. We're concerned that Ms. Mint El-Moctar is not being provided with adequate protection by the authorities, despite having requested it. We remind the Government of Mauritania of its obligation to protect its citizens from threats to their life and safety."  (

Mr Colville said the government should take all necessary steps to protect Ms. Mint El-Moctar given the very clear public threats to kill or mutilate her, and to investigate and possibly prosecute those making threats which amount to incitement to kill.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration:  1’40″

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