ND. I come from a humanitarian world and I always base it off of the needs analysis. Our action comes from an observation. In law, generally speaking, loopholes in legal rules do not benefit litigants. In particular, the most disadvantaged and the most vulnerable are at a disadvantage. Those sentenced to death are among the most vulnerable people. They are not the only people like that, but they are the most vulnerable ones amongst those behind bars.
For roughly every 10 million people in custody in the world, 20 thousand of them are on death row. These 20 thousand people have specific vulnerabilities that are not covered by the law when looked at, at a first glance. If you ask me, the law does not go far enough.
I mainly think about the international regulations on the conditions of prison or treatment of those in custody. In 2015, these regulations were renamed and updated, and are now called the Mandela Rules. They are very important because they modernize their first release which was in 1955. Among the specified points in the new December 2015 version, the points touching on the complete prohibition of torture and mistreatment, and equality for all people’s needs when in custody were brought up again. It also mentioned the strengthening of the national and international monitoring bodies of prison conditions. These points are very important for the evolution of these rules. Unfortunately, there are still no provisions for those on death row.
Surely there is general protection, but there is not any specific protection like there sometimes is for minors and women.
The communication problem with people on the outside concerns everyone on death row: the relationship with their family, the legal counsel, or even the diplomatic and consular protection when it comes to foreign inmates [^specification].
Those on death row also deal with the overwhelming distance factor: maintaining social and family connections. Ninety per cent of those sentenced to death in Mauritania are in a prison up north in the country about 1,200 kilometers from the capital. There, the road system is complex and safety concerns are present for families, and visitors just in general.
Those on death row have high medical risks. They are seen in a fair share of prison systems and occur as soon as inmates are admitted into prison.
Many systems do not perform medical exams upon arrival. In result, it is hard to detect torture or previous mistreatment cases or even contagious diseases. The follow-up with a psychiatrist is important, with many suffering from a serious and deadly syndrome of death row. Many patients sentenced to death experience this syndrome due to extreme and prolonged seclusions and because of this we must work on putting in place new legislation.
The question revolving around religious practice is interesting. This keeps showing up in testimonies of death row inmates. Former death row inmates said that religion helped keep them grounded in reality and in time, which helped them stick it out in the long run.
From here, we launched a project last October 10th in and with support from the Paris Bar as well as support from the Worldwide Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
[^specification]:In Mauritania, about 15% of inmates are foreigners.