Ould Dah: "A model torturer on a plate"

25 July 2005 by Emmanuel Chicon

After lengthy proceedings and political interference from the French foreign office (see inset), a criminal court in Nîmes finally tried Mauritanian officer Ely Ould Dah in his absence on 30 June and 1 July. In this, the first French trial based on universal jurisdiction, the court sentenced him to the maximum prison term of 10 years for "torture and acts of barbarity".

It was a hot summer's day as Chiek Fall arrived to testify before the Nîmes criminal court. A Mauritanian refugee, it was Fall's actions that initiated the case. When he first arrived in France from Mauritania in February 1991, Fall alerted Amnesty International and the media to the fact that, a year before, a thousand Negro Mauritanian soldiers had been arrested and tortured, and more than 500 of them executed. The Mauritanian president, Ould Taya (Moorish), suspected the men of fomenting an uprising, but this has never been proved. Chiek Fall, a low-ranking officer in 1990, was there as a witness to crimes allegedly carried out by Ould Dah. "While I was posted at the Jreïda barracks *a dozen kilometres from the capital I saw vehicles arriving full of soldiers from all across the country. They were bare-chested, blindfolded and handcuffed, and were thrown into dormitories. I was told to make a list of their names. Then I understood what was happening to them."

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