Human rights defenders in Mauritania arrested

March 19, 2013

On 9 March 2013, police severely beat a number of human rights defenders and members of the Initiative pour la Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste en Mauritanie – IRA (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement) in Southern Mauritania. Nine of the human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested and remain in detention in Kaédi police station. (IRA is an organisation which works to eradicate slavery in Mauritania. It has members and supporters in various regions of the country.)At approximately 6.30pm on 9 March 2013, several human rights defenders and members of IRA were holding a private meeting in a house in the neighbourhood of Kebé in Kaédi, when a police unit led by the regional Director of Intelligence attacked the house with gas canisters, forcing the members to evacuate. As they exited the house, the human rights defenders were intercepted by the police officers who reportedly subjected them to physical assaults and severely beat them. A number of individuals sustained serious injuries and required medical attention at a local hospital. Police arbitrarily arrested nine of the members and detained them at Kaédi police station.On 10 March 2013, the nine detainees declared a hunger strike to protest the substandard conditions in which they are being held and to demand their immediate release. It is reported that their cells are extremely hot and that two of the detainees had to receive hospital treatment as a result. Though no formal charges have been presented, the IRA members were told by police that they were being detained for “participating in an unauthorised assembly”. According to Mauritanian law, no authorisation is required for assemblies or meetings held in a closed area, such as for example a house.The incident occurred at a time when IRA is facing an extensive smear campaign, allegedly orchestrated by members of the political and religious elite of Mauritania. On 8 March 2013, Imam Elhacem Ould Habibou Allah, prominent supporter of the Islamist party Tawassoul, reportedly verbally attacked IRA and its leaders, as he preached at the Mosque of Tawfigh located in Arafat, a suburb of Nouakchott. The Imam accused IRA of apostasy and of intending to burn the Holy Koran. IRA President Mr Biram Dah Ould Abeid has also faced previous repeated acts of judicial harassment and is a finalist for the 2013 Front Line Award.

via Mauritania: Beating and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders and members of Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement IRA | Front Line.

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