Conference on "Torture: to reduce in silence the anti-slavery activists of IRA in Mauritania"

Centre ROSOCHA, Brussels, 29 June 2017

On 29 June 2017, IRA Mauritanie organised a debate conference at the Rosocha Center in Brussels, entitled "Torture: to reduce in silence the anti-slavery activists of IRA in Mauritania".
Participants included several representatives of IRA Mauritania, namely Biram Dah Abeid, President of IRA-Mauritanie, Hamady Lehbous, spokesperson of the IRA-Mauritanie, Khatri Rahel Mbareck, peace committee coordinator, Jemal Samba Beylil, member of the Riadh office, Abdallahi Abou Diop, member of the Riadh office and Mariem Mint Cheikh Dieng, one of the main female figures in the struggle against slavery in Mauritania. The conference also benefited from the contribution of Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, Secretary General of No Peace Without Justice.
The event was held to raise awareness and discuss the arrest of 13 members of IRA Mauritania, in relation to a protest organised on the 29 June 2016 against the forced eviction of families, in a shantytown in the Ksarn district of the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchoutt. According to the testimony of the President of IRA Mauritania and the members of the movement, the arrests took effect for two weeks after the demonstration.
Jemal Samba Beylil, was arrested in his shop, while his colleagues Abdallahi Abou Diop and Khatri Rahel Mbareck have all been arrested by police and civilians "in scenes resembling those in action films," they described.
The conference was animated by the President of IRA Mauritanie. His intervention was aimed at clarifying the situation of slavery in Mauritania and the context, denouncing in the process, the bandit attitude of the government on the status of individuals oppressed and treated “with no rights” by the current regime.
He denounced in his intervention, the dominance of the political and economic landscape by a minority “which codifies, legitimizes slavery and sanctifies it as a pillar of the Muslim religion”. He continued his discourse, describing the form of slavery in Mauritania, which takes various modern forms, such as forced labor: "These individuals have no wages, no rest, no care, have no right to education, they do not have the right to a civil status and the community that holds slaves, is a community that defines itself as white ... ".
Biram, who Founded the IRA Mauritanie in 2008, stresses that its movement launched a struggle against slavery, earning as a result of this struggle arbitrary detention in prisons, and insisted on the painful situation of the anti-slavery activists who undergo arrests and torture by the Mauritanian authorities, pointing out that currently two members of the movement are still imprisoned without access to their families, doctors and lawyers. The president of the IRA Mauritanie insisted on the nature of the struggle, which must be peaceful and "within the framework of international law".
Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, Secretary General of No Peace Without Justice, reminded the audience of Mauritania's official commitments to international treaties signed by the government. It is necessary to recall that in the context of a “campaign of defamation” led by the Mauritanian government to "break the legitimacy and the support of IRA Mauritanie in the international community", it is appropriate to remind the Mauritanian authorities of their international obligations.
Under these conditions, No Peace Without Justice has expressed its support for the IRA Mauritanie and its members who are subject to numerous violations - freedom of expression and assembly ignored, torture and abolition of slavery- and expressed the urgency to prosecute those responsible for torture, opening doors to the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association, enforcement of anti-slavery laws and guaranteeing a safe space for civil society, insisting that Mauritania should welcome actions by civil society to help them live up to those commitments, not arrest and torture those who seek to shine a light on the practice. Mauritania must do better and show, during its next Universal Periodic Review in 2020, its advances as well as its intentions.
Torture, the main subject of the conference, took the form of testimonies from members of IRA Mauritanie, who were arrested after the 29 June demonstration in Nouakchoutt.
Khatri Rahel Mbarek, Jemal Samba Beylil and Abdallahi Abou Diop, all have given testimonies on the inhuman treatment they were subjected when detained. These activists were exposed to various forms of torture and ill treatments with “punches”, "hands and feet bound in painful positions for hours, hanging by ropes, handcuffs too tight." The inhuman treatment endured still to this day bear consequences on their physical integrity, with Abdallahi Abou Diop losing his right ear’s hearing, and Khatri Rahel Mbare losing part of his teeth. Biram expressed again before the closure of the debate the necessity to not let these acts go unpunished.
The torture of the activists is unfortunately only the symptom of a bigger problem in the current situation of Mauritania. Therefore, there must be encouragement to build an atmosphere of trust and cooperation to advance further solutions to the issues at hand.
For further information, please contact Nicola Giovannini, NPWJ Press Office, at or + phone: 32 2 548 39 15.