New York - Mauritanian anti-slavery activists are appealing their 15-year prison sentences.
New York – Mauritanian anti-slavery activists are appealing their 15-year prison sentences.
The Mauritanian government imprisoned thirteen members of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) after a protest against an eviction of residents in a shantytown. Last week, a tribunal in the capital city of Nouakchott found them guilty of taking part in an unauthorized organization and inciting attacks against the Mauritanian government.
Several police officers were injured in the demonstration, reported Voice of America.
The residents of the shantytown were mostly Haratin, a dark-skinned ethnic group which has historically been the victims of discrimination in Mauritania.
“The Mauritanian justice system is not independent at all,” said Ahmed Ely, a lawyer representing the imprisoned IRA members. Ely said they will appeal, but he does not hold out hope for a fair trial.
“The justice does what the political authority tells them to do,” said Ely. “That’s what happened in the trial that was just completed,” he said in an interview with Voice of America.
The Haratin make up nearly 40% of Mauritania’s population but live in the lowest of conditions. Amnesty International reported that in 1994 nearly 100,000 Haratin still lived as “property” of other Mauritanians.
Allegations of torture has been made by several human rights organizations which have led the U.S. Department of State to issue a statement to the Mauritanian government.
“The United States strongly encourages Mauritania to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression and association, for all Mauritanians,” the department said in a statement.
IRA – USA is a non-profit organization based in Washington DC is also monitoring the treatment of the anti-slavery activists. The organization is engaged in the fight against slavery, racism and gender oppression in Mauritania. It is also an advocacy group for the education of escaped slaves.