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Expert Witness Country Conditions reports by AHRC include Mauritania

Melanie Nathan who directs African Human Rights Coalition is also a country conditions expert witness for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from over twenty African countries. What does this mean? When one claims asylum in the United States the representing attorney most often requests a country conditions expert to provide testimony for the case, which first involves preparing and submitting a Country Conditions Affidavit. That will set out the expert's qualifications and then interweave that with the reasons why the asylum seeker should not be deported (in a removal / deportation proceeding) and/or granted asylum in an affirmative application where the individual has not be detained.

It is important to note that if a person wants to claim asylum in the USA, it must usually be done within a year of being admitted or entering into the country. However always check in with a qualified lawyer before making any decisions about immigration or asylum matters. There are always exceptions and circumstances that could be applicable.

This week we provided a report for a gay man from Mauritania, probably one of the most repressive countries for LGBTQI+ people in the world. The Penal Code subscribes to actual SHARIA LAW and hence the death penalty for gay men. Women are treated differently. They will get prison and fines for same-sex relations, as they are considered capable of being rehabilitated or "cured". Gay men can also face reparative therapies. There is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty as metered out by the State, and yet the government does not protect people from the enforcement of Sharia law by family, friends and community. There is very little reported on LGBT Mauritania due to the secrecy as a result of extreme repression and resulting fear. We do receive direct reporting at AHRC which s not made public.

Mauritania is an interesting country. In general, Mauritania is an Islamic Republic, and is one of the largest and yet least populated countries of its region in Africa. There is a whole lot of desert! It is situated in Northwest Africa, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali, and Senegal. It is led by a president as head of state and a constitution grounded in French civil law and Sharia.

Beginning in the 8th century, Mauritania experienced infiltration of Arabs and Arab influence from the north. The French colonized Mauritania in the late 19th century. The country gained independence from France in 1960. Although Mauritanians are ethnically Amazigh,[1]

Mauritania is considered an Arab country. Politically, Mauritania is a one of the twenty-two members of the Arab League.

Mauritania has experienced decades of military rule, but the recent presidential and parliamentary elections have been relatively credible.

According to the U.S. State department: “The National Assembly exercises legislative functions but was weak relative to the executive. Voters elect the president, deputies to the National Assembly, municipal mayors, and regional councilors. In 2019 voters elected former Minister of Defense Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani as president with 52 percent of the vote. The election marked the first democratic transition of power between two elected presidents since the country’s independence in 1960.”

The population of Mauritania is around 4.6 million people. The official religion is Islam. Sunni Muslims are approximately 98 percent of the population, Shia Muslims 1 percent, and non-Muslims, mostly Christians, a further 1 percent. Almost all non-Muslims are non-citizens.

Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious problem. Black Mauritanians, the Haratin population, women, and LGBT+ people face discrimination. While the Bidhan population is relatively free to make personal decisions about residence, employment, and education, the choices of Black Mauritanians and the Haratin are often constrained by racial and caste-based discrimination. People without government identity cards are not allowed to travel in some regions, which disproportionately affects Black Mauritanians.

Non-Muslims cannot proselytize or become citizens, and those who convert from Islam to another religion lose their citizenship and suffer discrimination. However, non-Muslim communities do not face targeted persecution. Though apostasy is punishable by death, with a current moratorium

With regard to Mauritania’s country conditions on human rights, in its executive summary the State Department Human Rights Report notes: “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including criminal blasphemy laws; serious government corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence including rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, sexual exploitation and abuse, and other forms of such violence; trafficking in persons, including continued existence of slavery and slavery-related practices; crimes involving violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and some of the worst forms of child labor.”

[1] The word Amazigh is used to refer to North African populations considered as native and distinguished from Arabs through the category of “Berbers.”





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