On International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, we celebrate the recent release of three anti-slavery activists, and the reduced sentence of 10 others in Mauritania who have been imprisoned since 30 June.
The Appeal Court ruling in Mauritania 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, their families and for all those who have been campaigning for an end to the brutal crackdown on human rights defenders in Mauritania.”
However: “The authorities should explicitly recognise 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.’’
Sentenced up to 15 years in prison
The activists were originally sentenced on 3 August 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 unrecognised organisation.
The charges relate to a protest against the eviction of a slum that took place in the capital Nouakchott on 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.
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 two years suspended, and another one to six months’ imprisonment. Except those acquitted, they will pay a fine of 45,897 USD.
In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery, but descendants of slaves are still disparagingly known as ‘Haratin’ and they continue to face slavery and discrimination.
Learn more about anti-slavery activism in Mauritania.