Fatimata M'Baye

Fatimata M'Baye was born in 1957. She is divorced with three children. She works in Mauritania as a lawyer. Living in a country where women are still being denied elementary rights, she is fighting for Human Rights on all fronts.

She studied law and economics at Nouakchott University in Mauritania between 1981 and 1985. Having finished her studies she was admitted to practise as Mauritania's first female lawyer. The decision to work in a male-dominated profession was a challenge: only three of the overall number of three hundred lawyers in Mauritania are female, one of them being Fatimata M'Baye. In time, she has become much respected and admired by her professional colleagues, since she has shown great courage and commitment to her goals in disputes with administrative authorities, too.

Fatimata M'Baye also defends the rights of her own ethnic group, the group of black Africans who are still being subjected to reprisals from the country's white Moorish elite. Her commitment to this cause brought her a 6 months' prison sentence in 1987.

Fatimata M'Baye is a founder member of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association ("Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l'Homme" - AMDH). This organisation was created in 1991, two years after the bloody conflict between Senegal and Mauritania, which had cost innumerable lives. The AMDH whose vice-president Fatima M'Baye has been until the present day, is a member of the "Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme" (FIDH -International Federation of Human Rights Associations).

After a report denouncing still existing practices of slavery in Mauritania was broadcast on French television in 1998, Ms M'Baye, the AMDH's chairman, Professor Kamara, and further Human Rights activists were arrested without an arrest warrant. A Mauritanian court sentenced her to 13 months in prison and a fine of 30,000 Ouguiya, an extremely high sum in Mauritania, for being a member of an non-approved association. Her appeal against this judgement proved unsuccessful. It was only after an international campaign demanded the prisoners' release that the country's president yielded to pressure and pardoned her. Since the judgements are still in force and since Human Rights Associations still do not have approved status, Human Rights activities in Mauritania have become more difficult than ever.

Her most important activities:

  • Fatimata M'Baye takes part in numerous congresses and conferences in the context of regional organisations, e.g. the African Human Rights Commission, and
  • on themes like the international protection of Human Rights, e.g. at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva

In Mauritania she is actively involved in the fight for the rights of black Africans, for the rights of women - especially the equality between men and women, for children’s rights and against slavery
Fatimata M'Baye's fields of activities and functions include:

  • Chairperson of the women's rights commission of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association (AMDH)
  • Member of the state editorial committee for the report on children's rights in Mauritania, Nouakchott
  • Advisory lawyer for the non-governmental organisation (NGO) "SOS-esclaves" in Nouakchott
  • Advisory lawyer for "terre des hommes" in Mauritania, giving legal support to minors who committed criminal offences
  • Observer during the Mauritanian presidential elections in 1994 Founder and chairperson of the social affairs committee of AMDH in 1991

The most serious problems faced by Human Rights activists in Mauritania:

  • Independent Human Rights Associations still have not been granted approval
  • Human Rights activists are frequently under threat of court cases, torture and censorship.
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