GENEVA (10 August 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, today called upon the Mauritanian Parliament to reject the draft law on associations approved by the Council of Ministers last month without public consultations.
“While I support Mauritania’s efforts to reform and improve laws that govern the work of civil society, I am concerned that the bill, as it stands, threatens the exercise of fundamental freedoms in the country, in particular the right to freedom of association,” Mr. Kiai said.
The human rights expert further voiced particular concern about the lack of civil society consultation ahead of the elaboration of the recently amended draft Law on associations, foundations and networks of associations, which is not in line with international standards. “The Mauritanian Government should view civil society as a key partner in the process of reform.”
“Legislation that enshrines mandatory procedures for the ‘prior authorization’ of associations, instead of a simple process of ‘prior notification’, risks hindering the work of civil society in Mauritania,” he said.
Instead, Mr. Kiai stated, “a prior notification process that automatically attributes an association the legal personality to function is in greater conformity with international human rights law and should be adopted by all States, including Mauritania.” The expert added, nonetheless, that the right to freedom of association equally protects associations that are not registered.
The Special Rapporteur also warned that, if adopted, “the law would provide strict punishments for vaguely worded provisions and would limit the scope of an association to the field of development work.”
Mr. Kiai urged Mauritania to align its legislation with the best practices emanating from international human rights norms and standards, ahead of the examination of the country’s human rights record by the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in November 2015.
“I stand ready to offer technical assistance to both the Government and legislators in this endeavor,” the expert noted.
Mr. Kiai’s present appeal has been endorsed by two other independent experts, notably the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, David Kaye and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.
Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya) was designated by the UN Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in May 2011. Mr. Kiai has been the Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme, and the Africa Director of the International Human Rights Law Group (now Global Rights).
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.