Mauritania: NPWJ welcomes the release of ten IRA anti-slavery activists

20 Nov, 2016 | Press Releases

Brussels-Rome, 20 November 2016
On 18 November 2016, the appeals court in Zouerat has acquitted and ordered the release of three members of IRA-Mauritania (the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement) and reduced the sentence of seven other imprisoned activists, who will now also walk free as they have already served the time they had been sentenced to. On 18 August 2016, thirteen anti-slavery activists had been sentenced to 3 to 15 years in prison for their alleged role in a riot in June, after what had been denounced as a sham trial by NGOs and the international community.

No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) welcomes the release of ten of the imprisoned IRA members who had been unfairly sentenced for peacefully expressing their opinions. However we express concern over the fate of the three anti-slavery activists still held in prison after a trial which, as reported by UN experts, was marred by serious violations of due process rights and international fair trial standards.

We urge the Mauritanian authorities to immediately put an end to the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Mauritania, including the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement. Instead of using the judicial system to intimidate and silence them, they should recognise the legitimacy of their work aimed at putting an end to slavery and discrimination in the country.

Despite Mauritania has passed domestic laws to stamp out slavery and punish its perpetrators, the practice – that particularly targets the Haratin community –  not only is still deeply-ingrained and tolerated across all the country, but also sustained and promoted by elites and government. Civil society organisations such as IRA campaigning against slavery have often faced undue restrictions from the authorities to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association.

As part of an advocacy tour aimed at fostering international support to the work of its organisation, Mr Biram Dah Abeid, founder and president of IRA will visit Rome for a series of meetings with Italian institutions and NGOs, organised with the support of No Peace Without Justice. On 26 November 2016, a roundtable discussion with the participation of Emma Bonino, former Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and founder of NPWJ, will be hosted at the Rome Office of NPWJ. On 28 November 2016, Biram Abeid will also participate to the conference “DIFENDIAMOLI! Storie di difensori dei diritti umani nel mondo e strategie di protezione“, which will be held at the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

  • For further information, please contact Nicola Giovannini (Coordinatore della Comunicazione e Affari Pubblici di NPSG ) oppure +32-2-548-3915.