IRA Leadership Arrested in Rosso

Human Rights organizations are denouncing the arrests of Biram Dah Abeid and his colleagues in Rosso on November 11, 2014.

Amnesty International, The Unrepresented People’s Organization (UNPO), the Irish organization Frontline Defenders, the London-based anti-slavery organization Anti-Slavery International, Freedom House and of course IRA – USA, IRA – France and IRA – Italy have all issued public calls for the release of the human rights activists.

Here are the texts of those appeals

Amnesty International:

12 November 2014
Mauritania must end clamp down on anti-slavery activists

The Mauritanian authorities must stop the harassment, intimidation and repression of anti-slavery activists, Amnesty International said today following the arrest of a number of high-profile campaigners.
At least nine people including Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) and runner-up in June’s Presidential election, were arrested on 11 November and are being held in different detention centres in the southern city of Rosso, without family visits. Others arrested include Djiby Sow, President of the NGO Kawtal and Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, Vice President of the IRA.
All of those arrested represent non-governmental human rights organizations that actively campaign against slavery in Mauritania. Over the last week they have been travelling across the country organizing rallies, public meetings and lectures. This was halted yesterday in the southern town of Rosso, when a gendarmerie unit in Rosso was sent to stop the meeting, citing the absence of any authorization documents. The IRA had sent a request but the government refused it in a written statement.
“Anti-slavery activists are subject to never ending harassment and intimidation in Mauritania. Their actions are either prohibited or severely repressed and they are frequently arrested. This general clamp down must stop as it is a clear violation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa Researcher.
Some of those arrested were reportedly beaten by police officers. Yesterday evening, police officers also closed the IRA’s headquarters in Nouakchott and the spokesperson for the organization was arrested.
These arrests are part of an increasing clamp down on anti-slavery activists in Mauritania. In October, four IRA members were arrested in the biggest mosque in the capital city, Nouakchott, as they were responding to criticisms made against their organization. They were charged with disturbing prayers, incitement to revolt, and other charges. They are still detained, and to date have not been tried.
“The Mauritanian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and end the continuous harassment and intimidation of the anti-slavery movement. It is imperative that the authorities fully respect the legitimate work of anti-slavery activists and the important role they play in holding the government to account for the implementation of its human rights obligations and commitments. The right to assemble peacefully is a fundamental right and it is linked to other rights such as freedom of speech”, Gaetan said.

Region Africa
Country Mauritania
Media Centre
For further information, contact International Press Office


Amnesty International, Italy

Mauritania, nuovo giro di vite contro gli attivisti anti-schiavitù
13 novembre 2014
L’11 novembre 2014 almeno nove noti attivisti contro la schiavitù in Mauritania sono stati arrestati e trasferiti in vari centri di detenzione della città meridionale di Rosso, col divieto di ricevere visite familiari.

Tra gli arrestati figurano Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, presidente dell’Iniziativa per la rinascita del movimento abolizionista (Ira) e candidato alle elezioni presidenziali del giugno 2015; Djiby Sow, presidente dell’organizzazione non governativa Kawtal; e Brahim Bilam Ramdhane, vicepresidente dell’Ira.

Le persone arrestate fanno parte di organizzazioni non governative per i diritti umani impegnate contro la schiavitù in Mauritania. Nella settimana che ha preceduto il giro di vite nei loro confronti, avevano girato il paese organizzando incontri pubblici, raduni e letture. L’iniziativa è stata fermata a Rosso quando la polizia ha interrotto una riunione col pretesto che non era stata autorizzata. L’Ira aveva chiesto il permesso ma il governo, con una dichiarazione scritta, l’aveva negato.

“In Mauritania, gli attivisti contro la schiavitù sono soggetti a costanti minacce e intimidazioni. Le loro attività sono vietate o gravemente represse con frequenti arresti. Questo ennesimo giro di vite è una chiara violazione dei diritti alla libertà di riunione pacifica e di associazione” – ha dichiarato Gaetan Mootoo, ricercatore di Amnesty International sull’Africa occidentale.

Alcuni degli arrestati sarebbero stati picchiati dagli agenti di polizia. Poche ore dopo gli arresti, la polizia ha chiuso la sede dell’Ira e arrestato il portavoce dell’organizzazione.

La repressione nei confronti degli attivisti anti-schiavitù è aumentata negli ultimi tempi. A ottobre, quattro esponenti dell’Ira sono stati arrestati nella principale moschea della capitale Nouakchott mentre stavano replicando a critiche espresse contro la loro organizzazione. Sono stati incriminati per aver disturbato la preghiera e incitato alla rivolta. Sono tuttora in stato di detenzione, in attesa di processo.

“Le autorità mauritane devono rilasciare tutti i prigionieri di coscienza immediatamente e senza condizioni e porre fine alle continue minacce e intimidazioni nei confronti degli attivisti contro la schiavitù. È fondamentale che esse rispettino in pieno il lavoro legittimo degli attivisti e riconoscano il loro importante ruolo nel pretendere che il governo dia seguito ai suoi obblighi e impegni sui diritti umani. Il diritto di riunione pacifica è un diritto fondamentale, collegato ad altri diritti come quello alla libertà d’espressione” – ha concluso Mootoo.

UNPO Calls For Immediate Release of Biram Dah Abeid


The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) strongly condemns the arrest of Biram Dah Abeid and five other anti-slavery campaigners by the Mauritanian gendarmerie, and the gendarmerie’s use of violence against these peaceful activists, on Tuesday 11 November 2014.


The activists were campaigning with the Caravan of Liberty in the town of Chgara when the Mauritanian gendarmerie, on the orders of the local Wali, used tear gas and stun grenades to stop them. The six activists were harmed by the police before being arrested and taken to prison in the regional capital Rosso.

The Caravan of Liberty is an initiative of the IRA–Mauritania (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement), of which Biram Dah Abeid is President. It consists of a convoy of activists who travel from town to town, holding marches and public gatherings to press the Mauritanian Government and international community to combat slavery, highlight landowners’ exploitation of the Haratin and other marginalized sections of society, and push for much-needed land reforms.

The Mauritanian Government has a deeply inadequate track record in fighting modern-day slavery. Despite having outlawed the practice three times, most recently in 2007, slavery remains institutionalized and the legislation appears to have been wilfully ignored. According to the Global Slavery Index, up to 20% of the Mauritanian population is currently enslaved.

Biram Dah Abeid was previously arrested in 2010 and 2012, and the death sentenced he received in 2012 for burning the ‘Abrégé de Khlil’ (a non-sacred interpretation of Islam) is still pending. Despite such judicial harassment, Biram Dah Abeid has been consistently recognized by the international community for his brave campaigning, and in 2013 was awarded the UN Human Rights Prize and the Front Line Defenders Award.

UNPO calls upon the Mauritanian Government to release Biram Dah Abeid and the other anti-slavery activists immediately and unconditionally, and to permit them to assemble or protest freely.

UNPO also calls upon the international community to act now. Mauritania’s attendance at this week’s G20 summit in Brisbane – in its capacity as chairing the Assembly of the African Union – is an excellent opportunity to raise the broader issues of slavery, racism and exploitation at the highest level. There must be a full and open dialogue with the Mauritanian Government about its human rights commitments, and the Government must know that the international community is serious in its stated objective of ridding the world of slavery wherever it is encountered.

UNPO, through its links with the Haratin people, and its International Campaign Against Slavery (iCAS), will continue to press the international community to raise this matter with the Mauritanian Government at every opportunity until we see concrete signs that the authorities are meeting their national and international commitments, and actively tackling the prevalence of slavery – not least by enforcing their own legislation. They must similarly abandon their current strategy of harassing and arresting the civil society activists in Mauritania who are working so hard to tackle this grotesque abuse of human rights.

The Mauritanian Government must stop attempting to silence its critics, and for the sake of all its people, make the abolition of slavery a reality.


Frontline Defenders:

Mauritania – Arbitrary arrest of Biram Dah Abeid and members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement

On 11 November 2014, human rights defender Mr. Biram Dah Abeid and at least eight other anti-slavery campaigners were arrested by police and are currently being arbitrarily detained.

Seven of the human rights defenders are members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania – IRA, an organisation that works to eradicate slavery in Mauritania. Biram Dah Abeid received the 2013 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.

“The arrest of Biram Dah Abeid underscores the hypocrisy of the government of Mauritania which promises to the world that it is working to end slavery but uses every opportunity to harass, undermine and intimidate those, like Biram Dah Abeid and the Members of IRA, who are actually working to end this abhorrent practice” said Mary Lawlor Executive Director of Front Line Defenders in Dublin today.

Biram Dah Abeid is an advocate for human rights and the president of the NGO Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA). He is regularly targeted by the authorities because of his work and his criticism at the lack of government effort to end slavery and human trafficking. Mr. Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, Mr. Khattri Rahel, Mr. Dah Boushab, Mr. Abidine Matalla, Mr. Samba Diagana, Mr. Mahmoud Hassan, all members of the IRA, and Mr. Djiby Sow, president of the NGO Kawtal, NGO partner of the IRA, are the other human rights defenders currently in detention.

It is also reported that since their arrest, their phones have been confiscated, and they are now isolated with no contact with the outside world and unable to speak to a lawyer. The information received indicates that some of them are being held at the police and others in the direction of safety.

On the evening of November 11, 2014, Dr Saad Louleyd, spokesman for the IRA, was also arbitrarily arrested. It is unclear where he is currently being held. The headquarters of the IRA has been closed by the police without any explanation following orders to not allow anyone into the headquarters of the organisation.

Since November 7, 2014, the IRA members have been crossing the country, from village to village, and holding conferences to denounce ‘property slavery,’ a system that transforms members of the Haratines community into labourers on their own ancestral lands.

Two weeks ago, a wave of arrests and judicial harassment against members of IRA had already occurred. On October 31, during prayers by the Mufti of the Grand Mosque in Nouakchott, Mr. Sabbar Hussein, a member of the IRA, publicly denounced land exploitation and slavery in which the mufti was involved. Immediately following this, plain-clothed police officers pounced on him, but those present forced the police to withdraw. The next day, Sabbar Hussein was arrested by the police and was missing for three days. He was later found by his colleagues in the custody of the judicial police in Nouakchott. During the night of Sunday, November 3, three other IRA members were also arrested by police as they left the mosque of the Nobles, where they, too, responded to a violent statement by the Imam against the IRA. On November 3, the Mauritanian public prosecutor lodged the following charges: disruption of prayer; incitement to hatred; and rebellion against authority. Mr. Sabbar Hussein remains in jail while the others were released but placed under judicial control.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the repeated arrests and arbitrary detention of Biram Dah Abeid and his colleagues. Front Line Defenders believes that the arrests are directly related to their peaceful and legitimate activities in defense of human rights.

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