Mauritania : 10 anti-slavery activists released

In response to today’s Appeal Court ruling in Mauritania that acquitted and ordered the release of three anti-slavery activists, and reduced the sentence of 10 others – including seven who will now be released as they have served their sentence - Kiné Fatim Diop, Amnesty International’s West Africa Campaigner, said:

“The release of three anti-slavery activists who had been unfairly sentenced to up to 15 years for peacefully expressing their opinions is a huge relief for them, their families and for all those who have been campaigning for an end to the brutal crackdown on human rights defenders in Mauritania.”

The release of three anti-slavery activists who had been unfairly sentenced to up to 15 years for peacefully expressing their opinions is a huge relief for them and their families
Kiné Fatim Diop, Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner

“However the fact that the appeal court still convict 10 of them and three activists remain in jail represents distressing sign of the shrinking space that human rights activists and civil society organizations are facing in Mauritania. It is even more appalling that the Court’s ruling ignored the serious allegations of torture that were made by the defendants and that no investigation has yet been launched.”

“The authorities should explicitly recognize the legitimacy of all groups working against slavery and discrimination, including the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, and ensure that the criminal justice system is no longer used to target and harass those who defend human rights.’’

Background

Today the Appeal Court acquitted and released three anti-slavery activists and reduced the sentence of the 10 others who have been imprisoned since 30 June.

Among the 10 remaining, seven have been sentenced to one year's imprisonment with four months' suspended. Two of them were sentenced to three years with 2 years suspended, and another one to six months’ imprisonment. Excepted those acquitted, they will pay a fine of 45, 897 USD.

The Appeal court ruling convicted seven of them for membership of an unauthorized association. The two sentenced to three years are convicted for unarmed gathering, preventing the police from performing its duty and membership of an unauthorized association. Another one is convicted for organizing an unarmed gathering and for membership of an unauthorized association.

In the first instance, the 13 had been sentenced to between three and 15 years in prison, on trumped-up charges of rebellion, use of violence, attacks against the police and judicial officials and membership of an unrecognized organization.

The charges relate to a protest against the eviction that took place in a slum in the capital Nouakchott in July. However, none of the 13 activists were present at the protest and the organization they belong to - the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement – did not provide any support to the protest.

Five of the seven people from the slum who were arrested were also sentenced to between one and five years' imprisonment by the Appeal court. The court ordered them to pay a fine of around 3000 USD. Two were acquitted.

Mauritania: Drop all charges and release anti-slavery activists