Feb 15, 2013

Haratin: Slave-Owner Imprisoned

Victory for Mauritania’s Haratin Anti-Slavery Movement as Arabo-Berber Slave Owner receives jail term.

Below is an article published by IRA-Mauritania:


IRA celebrated a landmark victory against the history of slavery in Mauritania following the imprisonment of Mrs. Rahma Mint Legreyve, an Arabo-Berber woman of aristocratic origin on 11 February 2013. Mrs. Legreyve was a teacher attached to the Ministry of National Education in Mauritania. The decision to place her in custody was made by a Nouakchott Tribunal judge, based on her ownership of a new slave, Mrs. Youman Mint Salma, who comes from a long line of slaves.


Mrs. Salma and her two sons each made a complaint against Mrs. Legreyve. The IRA Mauritania assisted the woman and her sons with the procedure for making a complaint and organised a permanent sit-in of hundreds of anti-slavery activists, a majority of which are Haratins, who are the primary targets of slavery. This action marks the ongoing national campaign led by the IRA to inform and educate people about slavery and the violations of human rights it entails.


This particular case tells the story of the plight suffered over decades by a woman, Salma, who is around sixty, and her four sons and daughter. For the first time, the Mauritanian authorities have resigned themselves to charging one family member of the Ehel Legreyve family. This follows a long line of imprisonments and lawsuits carried out against anti-slavery Haratin activists. This single arrest has overshadowed a crime deliberately committed en masse, and whose guilt far surpasses the single arrest that has been made so far.


The victim and her children have, since their birth, lived under the yoke and physical and sexual exploitation of several Ehel Legreyve family members. Slavery laws have been registered and made sacred in books that the Mauritanian state has qualified as Makelite Sunnis, and which therefore have allowed this family to hold slaves generation after generation, as part of their household goods. In April 2012, IRA symbolically burned a few of these books, so as to defy their status as a primary source of law – a status which is conferred upon them by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.


IRA celebrates the act of the charge of “criminal slavery practices” that the Public Affairs Ministry of Mauritania has recently given against Rahma Mint Legreyve, whose victim, Youma Mint Salma remained under her rule from the age of three (or during 15 years) until the arrest on 7 February 2013.


IRA would like to increase awareness with the Mauritanian State about the fact that Youma’s mother and her four sons, Saleck, Mbareck, Bilal and Mhaimid (until his death), also suffered the same daily violence, mental alienation and humiliation, on top of indecent and unpaid work with no access to rest or medical support since their birth. They all grew up in this climate of violence at the will of the Ehel Legreyve family. These victims have identified and accused the family members in their police deposition. As a result, we are struck by the incoherence of the arrest of one family member and the liberty accorded to the rest – even though the same witnesses have accused them of the same acts.


IRA cautions the Public Ministry and the judicial power against trying to satisfy the wishes of the particular slavery-supporting tribal tribunal of Oulad Ahmen, a warrior aristocrat of which the detainee is a descendant. This community clearly supports the crime and have shown no indications of guilt or remorse following such clear evidence of wrongdoing. Instead, they started organizing three different simultaneous counter-protests a few hours after the sentence was given. One was organized in the city of Chogar, a tribe of slave-owners, and another was held in front of the Presidential Palace in Nouakchott. A third was held before the office of the Governor of the Region of Nouadhibou. The following slogans were used during these protests:


1. Calls for death to the IRA and its President Biram Dah Abeid,


2. Slavery is legal in the Quran (sic),


3. Calls for the unconditional freeing of the arrested person and the abandon of any charges for slavery, human trafficking or abuse of minors.


IRA demands an open, judicial inquiry into the legal instrument on which Rahma Mint Legreyve bases her practices and exploitation of her victim for many years, as being legal. Our organization cannot allow a law to remain that provides moral and legal authority to commit crimes against humanity in violation of the constitution and international law.