Two anti-slavery activists in Mauritania have been released from jail, already back campaigning on the streets of the capital Nouakchott with members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA).
Abdallehi Matallah Saleck and Moussa Biram were jailed for their alleged role in a protest and charged with inciting riots and rebellion. They spent the last two years in a a remote desert prison, where they say they suffered horrible abuse.
Related Campaign: Justice for Moussa and Abdellahi.
“They tortured us, they did everything they could so that we would back down. But we will never, ever back down,” explained Biram.
Yet he added that “I can’t even stand up because of my legs which people hit with batons.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
A government spokesman said the allegations of torture were false and that an independent body called the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture had visited the detention site in 2017 and found no human rights violations.
The government has previously denied making arbitrary arrests and said that it only prosecutes “unlawful and unregistered organisations that… provoke riots, chaos and insecurity.”
Because the government has refused to register the IRA as an organisation, the men could be thrown back in jail at any moment, said Francois Patuel of Amnesty International.
“We know that we’re not safe, but we are not afraid,” Saleck told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“This is our country no matter what, and we have to fight against discrimination and slavery,” he said.
Mauritania was the last country on earth to abolish slavery in 1981, though according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index every 2 out of 100 people are living as modern slaves today.
Slavery in the country generally follows racial lines, where black descendants of ethnic groups in the south of Mauritania are enslaved by their lighter-skinned countrymen.
Many are born into slavery, spending their whole lives in domestic servitude or forced labor on farms.
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