Mar 10, 2015

UNPO Demands Immediate Release of IRA Anti-Slavery Activists and Announces Fact-Finding Mission

Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA Mauritania) members Mr Biram Dah Abeid, Mr Brahim Ramdhan Bilal and Mr Djiby Sow are still imprisoned in Rosso, Mauritania. The three activists 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.

In January 2015, UNPO strongly condemned the unfair detention of Mr Abeid, Mr Bilal and Mr Sow and demanded their immediate release.

Mr Abeid and his colleagues have appealed against the authorities’ decision. They are currently still waiting for a date to be set for their trial. UNPO fully supports their call for an appeal and sincerely hopes that the judicial process will be fair and free, since the right to a fair trial is essential in any country that respects the rule of law.

UNPO will continue to support their non-violent struggle and advocate for peaceful strategies in promoting the principles of dignity, liberty and equality that constitute the core of fundamental human rights.

Moreover, the three activists have been suffering from very poor conditions of detention. Other IRA members, currently detained following peaceful demonstrations, have reportedly been also tortured. Until recently, Mr Abeid, Mr Bilal and Mr Sow had not been able to watch television, play sports, or have access to a brighter part of the prison. Thanks to international pressure and the assistance of a delegation of the National Bar Association (ONA), the three activists were granted full respect of their prisoners’ rights. Subsequently, the three anti-slavery activists also announced that they decided to stop their hunger strike

Two UNPO representatives will be conducting a fact-finding mission to Mauritania from 16 to 20 March 2015 in order to obtain more information on the situation of the imprisoned activists, and more broadly, on recent developments of the issue of slavery in the country.


Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera.