Malawi African Association & Ors. v. Mauritania

Malawi African Association v. Mauritania, Afr. Comm'n Human & Peoples' Rights, Comm. No. 54/91, 61/91, 98/93, 164/97 à 196/97 and 210/98 (2000).
Download Judgment: English
Country: Mauritania
Region: Africa
Year: 2000
Court: African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Five petitioners alleged that Mauritania violated Articles 4 (right to life) and 16 (right to health) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), because of the conditions the state imposed on people it detained for political cause, and other reasons.

In the complaint, the joined communications alleged the existence of slavery and analogous practices in Mauritania, as well as the institutionalized racial discrimination perpetrated by the ruling Moor community against the more populous black community.

The Commission held that denying people food and medical attention, burning them in sand and subjecting them to torture to the point of death all show a shocking lack of respect for life, and constitute a violation of Article 4 of the African Charter.

The Commission also held that the state violated Article 16 as evidenced by the general state of health of the prisoners which deteriorated due to the lack of sufficient food, blankets and adequate hygiene.

The Commission found the Mauritanian State directly responsible for this state of affairs.

"121. Article 16 of the Charter states that:

1. Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.

2. States Parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick."

"122. The State's responsibility in the event of detention is even more evident to the extent that detention centres are of its exclusive preserve, hence the physical integrity and welfare of detainees is the responsibility of the competent public authorities. Some prisoners died as a result of the lack of medical attention. The general state of health of the prisoners deteriorated due to the lack of sufficient food; they had neither blankets nor adequate hygiene. The Mauritanian State is directly responsible for this state of affairs and the government has not denied these facts. Consequently, the Commission considers that there was violation of article 16."