Target: President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Goal: To end the detention of seven anti-slavery activists in Mauritania.
Despite having their cases dropped in court, seven members of the anti-slavery group IRA Mauritania are still being detained on charges of offense to national security, contempt to good morals, and even the crime of Apostasy (rejection or relapse of one’s religion). Activist members of the group were arrested in April during a peaceful protest in Mauritania’s capitol city of Nouakchott, where they burned books written by Islamic scholars, renouncing the literature for its attempts to justify slavery in the region.
Slavery in Mauritania was only abolished in the 1980’s, and while it is now recognized as a crime, the practice often remains outside the eye of the law. While many groups in the region have formed to try to expose those that still practice slavery, it is not uncommon for authorities to place strict limits on free expression. Accordingly, this is not the first time this group of activists has faced legal harassment for the peaceful protest of their ideas. Last year, many members of the group were arrested for obstructing public order while holding a rally outside of the main police station in Nouakchott. Those detained were sentenced to one year in prison, but charges were dropped shortly thereafter and the activists were pardoned.
Mauritania, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has an obligation to protect the free expression of ideas and beliefs, even those that may appear to be “deeply offensive.” Because of this, the international community must urge Mauritanian authorities to drop all charges against these activists and immediately and unconditionally release them from their detentions.
While slavery was outlawed in Mauritania decades ago, the sad truth is that it is still occurring within your country’s borders. The brave activists who chose to speak out against these atrocities should not be punished and put in prison, but rewarded for their efforts to further equality and human rights. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, you swore to protect the freedom of expression for all people, even if the statements they make are sometimes harsh or offensive.
Accordingly, we are writing today to urge that Mauritanian authorities drop all charges against the seven detained anti-slavery advocates in your custody (Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, Issa Ould Alioune, Yacoub Diarra, Abidine Ould Maatala, Ahmed Hamdy Ould Hamar Vall, Leid Ould Mbarek, Bilal Ould Samba, Leid Ould Lemlih, Oubeid Ould Imijine, Zeidane Ould Maouloud and Boumediane Ould Batta) and ensure the immediate and unconditional release of these activists.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: SimonK via Flickr