February 24, 2015
UNPO has issued a press release following a report from The New York Times which claims that IRA-Mauritanie President, Biram Dah Abeid; Vice-President of IRA-Mauritanie, Brahim Bilal Ramdan; and Haratin rights campaigner, Djiby Sow, have begun a hunger strike. The three activists were arrested on 11 November 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison in January 2015. The hunger strike was initiated on 23 February 2015 in response to the poor conditions of their detention.
On 11 February 2015, the three activists issued an ultimatum (available in English, French and Arabic) to the Public Prosecutor declaring that they would pursue peaceful means of protest if their demands were not met. The demands were as follows: to be transferred to their correct jurisdiction of Nouakchott-Rosso, from their current detention in Aleg; for their families and loved ones to be granted visitation rights to see them whilst in detention, which until now have been denied by the authorities; and for other activists in Mauritania who are currently unjustly and wrongfully detained or detained without trial to be given their right to a fair trial immediately. As these demands were not met, the activists have engaged in an indefinite hunger strike.
Biram Dah Abeid, Brahim Bilal Ramdan and Djiby Sow have remained in detention since their arrest on 11 November 2014. They were sentenced to two years in prison after being formally charged with being members of an unauthorised organisation, violating public order, inciting violence and offending the authorities. These charges follow their involvement in the ‘Caravan of Liberty’, an initiative established to educate Haratin people throughout Mauritania about their rights to land and freedom from slavery. The repression of Haratin-led peaceful anti-slavery initiatives and demonstrations by the Mauritanian Government has been an ongoing problem in the country. Currently, seven other activists remain in prison, four of whom were arrested in October 2014 and are still yet to face trial.
Three others, Dr Saad Louleyd, Mariem Mint Cheikh Dieng and Yacoub Ould Moussa who were also arrested on 11 November 2014, were taken to court on 5 February 2015. They were charged with organising, calling for and participating in an unauthorised protest and being members of an unrecognised organization. Their verdicts are expected on 26 February 2015.
To read the full UNPO press release click here.
To read more on this issue, read our regularly updated timeline.
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Below is the original article published by The New York Times:
Three jailed Mauritanian antislavery activists began a hunger strike on Monday [23 February 2015] to protest “squalid conditions” and abuse by the prison authorities, their campaign group said in a statement. Biram Dah Abeid, the runner-up in presidential elections last year, is serving two years in prison, along with an aide, Bilal Ramdan, and Djiby Sow, a rights campaigner.
The men were sentenced for “belonging to an illegal organization,” the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, among other charges. Amnesty International says the activists were arrested while trying to educate people about land rights in the West African country, which did not abolish slavery until 1981. Campaigners say the government has failed in the past to acknowledge the extent of forced labor, a particularly sensitive issue in Mauritania.