Free Anti-Slavery Activists Held Incommunicado

Alexandra  - mosque in nouakchott mauritania

Target: General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Goal: Free 13 anti-slavery activists held incommunicado.

Thirteen anti-slavery activists in Mauritania have been arrested and are being held incommunicado, without access to lawyers and possibly necessary medications. Sign the petition and demand that their whereabouts be revealed and that they be released immediately.

Slavery seems like a dark facet of history, but in Mauritania it is still very much a present situation. Mauritania was the last nation to outlaw slavery, passing a toothless presidential decree in 1981. The law had no legal weight until 2007, when slavery was officially made a crime. However, slavery is still a harsh reality for many people in the country, as slave-holding is rarely prosecuted. Furthermore, former slaves and members of the slave class are still often discriminated against and neglected by those in positions of power, including those in the government.

The Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA) is an activist group that works to dismantle the remnants of slavery in Mauritania. However, they face stiff opposition from the government, which refuses to recognize them as an official organization. They also deal regularly with harassment and imprisonment; recently, members were arrested in Mauritania’s capital of Nouakchott for unknown reasons and moved to an undisclosed location. The arrests all came on the heels of a large demonstration protesting the forcible removal of residents of a slum neighborhood in Nouakchott. None of the arrested IRA members were involved in or present at the protest.

It’s clear that the arrests are meant as a scare tactic to intimidate those who attempt to speak out against exploitative conditions in Mauritania. Government harassment and intimidation is unacceptable under these and any circumstances. Each arrested person has the right to access legal representation and communicate with his family, and each should also be given access to any medicine or medical attention he may require. But most of all, each of the arrested men should be released immediately. Sign the petition and demand justice for members of Mauritania’s IRA.

PETITION LETTER:

Your Excellency,

I am writing to demand the immediate release of thirteen members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA). The men have been detained without any official charge, but it is likely linked to a recent protest — one in which none of the men participated. They are prisoners of conscience and ought to be released immediately.

The men were arrested following a demonstration in one of the neighborhoods of Nouakchott. The residents of the neighborhood were being forcibly evicted from their homes, and they protested this treatment. None of the arrested IRA members were involved in or present at the protest. Some of the IRA’s leaders believe that the arrests are tantamount to a smear campaign, and that the government is attempting to tarnish the reputation of the IRA both in Mauritania and abroad.

The arrested men are being held incommunicado, with no access to their lawyers or contact with their families. The family of one of the arrested men notes that he has a heart condition and fears he may not be getting adequate medical care wherever he is being held. These all constitute clear violations of international human rights standards and must be addressed immediately.

The men of the IRA have done nothing to warrant their arrest. I urge you to release them immediately, and to ensure going forward that all arrests both meet international human rights standards and are based on actual crimes, not political motivations.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Alexandra Pugachevsky

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250 Signatures

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