Mauritania: Anti-Slavery Activists Sentenced to 3 to 15 Years Imprisonment
On 5 October 2016, Alkarama seized the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders (SR HRDs) with the case of 13 activists from the anti-slavery NGO, Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA Mauritanie), Amadou Tidjane Diop, Balla Touré, Hamady Lehbouss, Ahmed Amarvall, Khattry M'Bareck, Mohamed Daty, Jemal Beylil, Ousmane Anne, Ousmane Lô, Abdallahi Matallah Seck, Moussa Biram, Abdallahi Abou Diop et Mohamed Jaroullah.
These activists were arrested between 30 June and 9 July 2016 under the false pretext that they had taken part in clashes that took place on 29 June during the forced eviction of slum dwellers near Nouakchott. After several days of incommunicado detention, some showed visible signs of torture perpetrated with the aim to make them confess their alleged involvement in the clashes. The prosecution then formally charged them with "armed gathering", "violence against law enforcement officials", "rebellion", and being "members of a non-registered organisation".
During the trial before the Criminal Court of Nouakchott on 3 August, the people attending the trial were violently repelled by the police. On 10 August, during the hearing, the defence lawyers were insulted and intimidated by a police officer, who denied them the right to speak from the platform or to approach the president, preventing them both to challenge the prosecution evidence or to submit to the judges the evidence in support of their arguments. Moreover, the court did not respond to the allegations of torture brought to its attention. The defendants therefore asked the group of lawyers defending them to withdraw in protest over these numerous irregularities.
On 18 August 2016, the activists of IRA Mauritanie were sentenced to heavy prison terms ranging from 3 to 15 years, on the sole basis of confessions obtained under torture and despite the allegations of torture submitted to the judges.
Previously detained in inhumane conditions at the detention centre of Dar Naïm, they were transferred on 28 September 2016 to Zouerate prison, 766km from Nouakchott, even though the Supreme Court had ruled to transfer them to Nouadhibou, which is more accessible to their family and lawyers. Moreover, since the beginning of their detention, their right of access to medical care has been regularly flouted, even though some suffer from serious diseases. Alkarama fears that this new measure is intended only to isolate them further and prevent them from properly preparing their defence in view of their upcoming appeal trial which should start around 20 October.
Alkarama calls again on the Mauritanian authorities to immediately release the IRA Mauritania activists, to stop all acts of persecution against those who call for the respect of civil and political liberties, and to ensure that such violations do not happen again.
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