CCIJ is helping Mamadou Seye seek justice for the disappearance of his father, Papa Seye, in Mauritania in 1990. We worked with him to file a communication in April 2015 against the government of Mauritania before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, accusing Mauritania of several violations of Papa Seye’s rights and the rights of the Seye family under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and customary international law. We asked the Commission to declare that Mauritania violated those rights, call on Mauritania to revoke amnesty law 93-23, request that Mauritania properly investigate Papa Seye’s whereabouts and compensate the Seye family accordingly.
Mauritania’s population is composed of Moors or ‘beidanes’ and various black ethnic groups. Although abuses against the black community in Mauritania date back to its independence, the precarious situation of the community became critical in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Following a coup d’état in 1984, the situation of black Africans in Mauritania deteriorated with the implementation of discriminatory governmental policies. In 1986, the government began its violent repression against the black community. Massive expulsions ensued. The government not only used a border dispute between Senegal and Mauritania to begin mass expulsions of black Mauritanians under the premise that they were Senegalese but also employed expulsion, expropriation and other human rights abuses against the black African population to take control of land along the Senegal River that had historically belonged to the local black population.
Human Rights Watch reported that some 40,000 to 50,000 black Mauritanians were expelled from their own country by the government in 1989, and other organizations estimated a number closer to 70,000 to 150,000. Some victims were “summoned by the police, interrogated, forced to relinquish their identity cards and then transported in trucks, with or without their families, to the edge of the Senegal River, where canoes discharged them to Senegal.” Others were expelled by air. Although massive expulsions ended in 1990, come continued along with isolated arbitrary arrests, torture and extra-judicial executions through 1993.
In late 1990 and early 1991, approximately 3,000 blacks were arrested without charge, held in incommunicado detention, and physically abused. These roundups were concentrated in Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, and Aleg. In the city of Aleg, located nearby the area in which Papa Seye was last seen before his disappearance, eyewitness accounts from May 1990 indicate that “some of the people arrested at the time in Aleg have never been heard of again. Others were arrested and then deported.” It has also been reported that military bases in Aleg were converted into prisons, and that persons who were arrested in that city were subsequently subjected to torture.
Approximately two weeks before his disappearance, Papa Seye was arbitrarily arrested by the police while on a job assignment in Aleg, brought to the Aleg Police Station and held in a cell for a few days. No charges were ever laid against him. Papa Seye was then last seen on 28 June 1990 on or about 4 PM Mauritanian time.
Similar to all cases of enforced disappearance, and due to the nature of this offence, Papa Seye’s family are only aware of a few factual details surrounding the disappearance. To this day, neither Papa Seye’s whereabouts nor his death have been confirmed.
Mamadou’s communication submitted to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (English translation)