Wednesday, 30 May 2012

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has sacked the head of Mauritania's Supreme Court, Seyid Ould Ghaylani. The sacking, which many believe to be constitutionally illegal, is likely to swell and accelerate what is being described as a 'slow-burn' movement (see below) against Abdel Aziz.

Ould Ghaylani's dismissal was announced in a presidential decree published in the state media last week. According to constitution, the head of the Supreme Court can only be replaced or suspended if he resigns, is physically unable to work or is deemed unfit to hold the post. No reason has been given for the shift.

Ould Ghaylani, who was due to remain president of the Supreme Court until 2015, has refused to leave his post, saying that his removal was illegal and an attempt by the president to undermine the independence and powers of the judiciary. Despite this, Ould Ghaylani found the entrance to his office barred by security forces. He told the media on Sunday 27 May that “I refuse this humiliation and personalisation of the judiciary”.

According to the presidential degree, which named Yahfdhou Ould Mohamed Youssef as the new head of the court, Ould Ghaylani was offered the position of Mauritania's new ambassador to Yemen. Ould Mohamed Youssef was sworn in on 28 May.

Hatem, an influential opposition party, called the sacking a “coup against the judiciary”. The prominent Mauritanian lawyer and human rights activist, Brahim Ould Ebety, was quoted as saying: “It is a serious attack on the constitutional independence of the judiciary and therefore justice, which is the basis for any democratic system.”

Although Abdel Aziz has the backing of the US, France and UK for his tough stance against terrorism and AQIM, domestic protests against his regime have been mounting. There are now almost weekly public demonstrations demanding that he step down because of his militaristic and dictatorial regime, his failure to organise legislation elections, his corruption, mismanagement and poor handling of the food crisis. His sacking of Ould Ghaylani could, therefore, have profound political consequences.

For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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