Jul 04, 2016

UNPO Strongly Condemns IRA Leaders’ Arrests and Calls for Their Prompt Release

Only one month after the liberation of IRA-Mauritanie President Mr Biram Dah Abeid and Vice-President Mr Brahim Bilal Ramdhane [17 May 2016], who had been detained for 18 months, numerous anti-slavery activists, many of which were covering an official role in IRA, were arrested last Thursday [30 June 2016] and in the following days. On 3 July, following a press conference to comment on these activists’ arrest, two other IRA members were arrested, including Biram Dah Abeid's advisor Mr Hamady Lebouss. This comes as a surprise, as on 30 June the two Haratin activists were conferred the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero Award by the US Department of State for their struggle against slavery and human trafficking. According to the 2016 TIP Report, “the government of Mauritania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so”. 

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is appalled by this new campaign to suffocate IRA’s activities and strongly condemns the arrest of these activists, which comes only a few weeks after Biram Dah Abeid’s release. UNPO calls on the international community to take a strong stand on these arrests and the Mauritanian authorities to promptly release the imprisoned activists. 

Photo courtesy of haratine.blogspot.be/.

On 29 June, Mauritanian authorities harshly repressed the population in Gazra Bouamatou after the local residents opposed resistance to being forcefully deported to another neighbourhood. Bouamatou, in the area of Gazra in Nouakchott, is a slum that has been occupied by a very poor section of the population for the past 20 years. In view of an extraordinary Arab Summit, the Mauritanian government wanted to transfer these people to another less visible area of the city, but the people opposed this decision and police forces reacted with violence and detention.

On 30 June, massive arrests took place on the hands of the police, leading to the arrest of at least 5 IRA militants, including Mr Diop Amadou Tidjane, third Vice-President of the organisation. The government simultaneously launched an accusatory media campaign with the aim of associating IRA-Mauritanie, a peaceful organisation, to the violent response of some protestants – identified by non-governmental sources as individual youths embittered by the situation and not affiliated to IRA.

On 1 July, IRA militants organised a peaceful sit-in in front of the Justice Ministry to call for the liberation of prisoners, but they were faced with police brutality, which led to three of them being sent to the hospital, while Mr Balla Touré, IRA External Affairs Secretary, was arrested.

On 3 July, Mr Hamady Lehbouss, counsellor of Mr Dah Abeid and Mr Ajmed Hamdu, IRA Treasurer, were also arrested following a press conference on the arbitrary arrests that took place over the previous three days.

In the end, the population of Gazra Bouamatou, composed of around 400-450 families, was deported to the neighbourhood of Dubai, where other poor people have been living for a few years.

Despite Mauritania having ratified the UN Convention against Torture, prisoners are denied access to a lawyer and to visits of a family member, which are specifically addressed in the Convention. Until now the request to visit the prisoners by SOS Esclaves, another renowned anti-slavery organisation, has been denied.