Mauritania: Anti-Slavery Activists Remain in Prison
To mark the anniversary of the November 11, 2014, arrest of Biram Dah Abeid and two colleagues, who were later sentenced to two years imprisonment, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The continued imprisonment of these anti-slavery activists and denial of needed medical care demonstrates that the government of Mauritania is not committed to eradicating slavery or respecting the fundamental rights of its people, even after strengthening its anti-slavery laws,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Africa programs. “President Ould Abdel Aziz should use November 28, Mauritania’s independence day, as an opportunity to issue pardons for Biram Dah Abeid, Brahim Bilal Ramdhane and Djiby Sow and permit IRA-Mauritanie to register as an official non-profit entity.”
On November 7, 2014, local human rights organizations launched a peaceful campaign in southern Mauritania against slavery and for land reform. On November 11, police in Rosso used tear gas to disperse protestors, arresting some of them.
Biram Dah Abeid, Brahim Bilal Ramdhane (president and vice president of IRA-Mauritanie) and Djiby Sow (president of Kawtal) were subsequently convicted of “inciting rebellion,” “disobeying authorities” orders, and in the case of Abeid and Ramdhane “belonging to an illegal organization.” They were sentenced to two years imprisonment and transferred to a remote prison in Aleg. An appeal court upheld their sentence on August 20, 2015. A doctor has requested that Abeid receive medical treatment in the capital for a herniated disk; authorities have refused comply.
Freedom House, in partnership with other international and local human rights organizations, issued an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on August 26, 2015 calling on the United States to publically condemn the appeal court ruling and reconsider Mauritania’s eligibility for African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.