Mauritanian tried in 'universal jurisdiction' test

30th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

NIMES, France, June 30 (AFP) - The trial of a Mauritanian military officer for torture opened in his absence Thursday in France's first ever application of the doctrine of 'universal jurisdiction', according to which foreigners can be prosecuted for crimes committed anywhere in the world.

NIMES, France, June 30 (AFP) - The trial of a Mauritanian military officer for torture opened in his absence Thursday in France's first ever application of the doctrine of 'universal jurisdiction', according to which foreigners can be prosecuted for crimes committed anywhere in the world.

Ely Ould Dah, 42, was not in the court in the southern town of Nimes, having fled France in 2000 several months after his arrest.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomed Ould Dah's trial on charges of "torture and acts of barbarism" as an important step to establishing the right to try certain types of crime -- such as torture and crimes against humanity -- in foreign jurisdictions.

"This trial takes place thanks to the obstinacy of the victims as well as the FIDH," said the organisation's president Sidiki Kaba.

Ould Dah, who is today a major in the Mauritanian army, is alleged to have tortured two black officers in 1991 after they were accused of taking part in a plot against President Maaouiya Ould Taya.

In July 1999 he was detained in France while on a training course in the city of Montpellier. He was granted conditional release in September and fled back to Mauritania in unclear circumstances the next April.

The doctrine of 'universal jurisdiction' has been making inroads into international law ever since the detention of Chilean former president Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998.

Several cases have been launched in European courts -- including one citing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Belgium -- but in practice it is proving difficult to bring them to trial.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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