Could you imagine being locked away in a remote prison with no realistic possibility of visits by your lawyers, never mind your loved ones, simply for speaking out about modern slavery? In Mauritania, our friends Abdellahi and Moussa don’t have to imagine – they live it every day.
Call on Mauritania to deliver justice for anti-slavery activists Moussa and Abdellahi!
For over a year, Mauritanian anti-slavery activists Moussa Bilal Biram and Abdellahi Matalla Saleck have been held in a Saharan desert prison in Bir Moghrein. The prison, more commonly used to house death row inmates, is in an unsafe, remote region of the country 1,200km away from the capital city of Nouakchott where they live. Moussa and Abdellahi have reportedly been tortured during their detainment and have injuries consistent with being bound in painful positions for hours at a time.
Why? We believe that the authorities are targeting Abdellahi and Moussa because they are leading members of the Mauritanian anti-slavery organization the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA). They have been convicted of, among other charges, incitement of riots and violent rebellion against the government. However, no evidence of these crimes was provided at trial. Since IRA was founded in 2008, the Mauritanian government has refused to legitimize the group’s work to end slavery and regularly arrests its members on a variety of specious charges, such as belonging to an unrecognized organization.
Relocating Moussa and Abdellahi to a safer prison near Nouakchott is just the first step on the path to justice for these men. They are innocent of these bogus crimes and their detainment, especially to a region like Bir Moghrein, is targeted and completely unwarranted. We ultimately want to see Abdellahi and Moussa fully exonerated and released. Their case has recently been referred to Mauritania’s Supreme Court and is awaiting scheduling.
This isn't the first time that the Mauritanian government has tried to silence anti-slavery activists. In 2014, many of you supported our campaign for the release of IRA President, anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid. Nearly 400,000 Freedom United supporters like you took part and our support and pressure to revisit his case made a huge impact! Mauritania's Supreme Court ruled in Biram's favor in May 2016 and he was freed.
Call on Mauritania to immediately relocate Moussa and Abdellahi to a prison in the capital city Nouakchott. While awaiting their Supreme Court hearing – the body with the power to order their unconditional release – Abdellahi and Moussa must have access to healthcare, their lawyers and loved ones.
Mauritania became the final country in the world to abolish slavery by presidential order in 1981 but it took a long time before criminal laws were passed to curb the daily practice of slavery. Due to global pressure, Mauritania finally passed a law in 2007 punishing those who hold other people as property and then strengthened the law in 2015, but it has rarely been enforced. Anti-slavery activists in Mauritania continue to live in fear that they will face the same persecution as Moussa and Abdellahi.
If we can leverage global pressure for Moussa and Abdellahi's case, like we did for Biram in 2016, the Minister of Justice will know the world is watching – immediately ensuring better conditions for Moussa and Adbellahi as they await their hearing, and creating a safer organizing space for all anti-slavery activists in Mauritania who live and work under threat of false charges and fear.
That’s why it’s more important now than ever that we stand up for Moussa and Abdellahi and get them relocated ahead of their Supreme Court hearing so that they have access to their lawyers and families, and receive the care they need.
Will you call on the Mauritanian government to deliver justice for Moussa and Abdellahi?
Joanna and the Freedom United Team
P.S. We have developed this campaign with several partners across the world. Click to find out about the organizations joining us.
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