Field report: Moussa Biram and Abdellahi Matallah Saleck released from detention


Mauritanian anti-slavery activists, Mr. Moussa Biram and Mr. Abdellahi Matalla Saleck, to be relocated from a remote desert prison in Bir Moghrein to a prison in the capital city of Nouakchott where they can access healthcare and receive regular visits from their lawyers and relatives. The campaign sought their immediate release from arbitrary detention where both activists have alleged being subjected to torture.


Along with 11 anti-slavery activist colleagues, Moussa and Abdellahi were accused of taking part in an organised protest against the government and detained in 2016 on charges of incitement of riots and violent rebellion against the government. However, no evidence of these crimes was provided at trial and neither activist was present at the protest. Moussa and Abdellahi remained in detention after 9 of their colleagues were released, purportedly to cover up their wounds of torture. They are innocent and should never have been detained, charged or convicted of these crimes but were being persecuted as anti-slavery activists.

Freedom United partnered with 12 organizations calling on the Mauritanian Minister of Justice to relocate Moussa and Abdellahi from a remote desert prison in Bir Moghrein to a prison in the capital city of Nouakchott. This would enable them to receive access to health care and regular visits from their lawyers, friends and relatives. We also called for allegations of torture from Moussa and Abdellahi to be formally investigated and for Abdellahi and Moussa’s immediate and unconditional release.

Since the launch of Freedom United’s campaign in November 2017, over 32,000 supporters signed the petition demanding justice for Moussa and Abdellahi.


On July 12, 2018, Mr. Moussa Biram and Mr. Abdellahi Matalla Saleck were finally released from detention. This followed mounting international pressure from the United Nations, the African Union, Mauritanian activists and supporters from around the world calling for an end to slavery in Mauritania and the freedom for anti-slavery activists to continue their work in peace. In January 2018, our partner Freedom Now submitted a petition to a UN Working Group who concluded that Moussa and Abdellahi’s detention was arbitrary, in violation of international law and that they must be released immediately.

We are overjoyed that Moussa and Abdellahi are finally free and we hope to see lasting change in Mauritania that will enable anti-slavery activists to work to end slavery without fear of reprisal.

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5 years ago

That is great news! They are truly heroes!