May 30, 2012

Call for the Release of Biram Dah Abeid

[Has now been released] Please take action on behalf of Mr Biram Dah Abeid and copy the enclosed letter and send it to the addresses provided below. Thank you for your action you deem appropriate.

Over one month has passed since human rights defender and anti-slavery activist Mr Biram Dah Abeid has been detained. On 29 May 2012 at midnight, he and his ten fellow prisoners were presented before the judge of Nouakchott, still being denied any access to legal support. Biram Dah Abeid and seven of the activists were sent to prison, while three of them were released. 

Mr. Biram Dah Abeid, president of the ‘Initiative de Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste de Mauritanie’ (IRA), was arrested on 29 April 2012 following his act of publicly burning several pages of a Malikite theological book, that refers to the practice of slavery and is used to justify it.

Before the event, Mr. Abeid ensured that pages referring to the Koran and the name of Allah and the Prophet Mohamed were removed from the books. A further eleven people, (Issa Ould Ali, Yacoub Diarra, Abidine Ould Maatala, Ahmed Hamdy Ould Hamarvall, Elid Ould Mbarek, Bilal Ould Samba, Leid Ould Lemlih, Abdallahi Abou Diop, Oubeid Ould Imigiene, Boumédiane Ould Batta and Zeidane Ould Mouloud), all members and sympathizers of the IRA, were also forcibly detained during night raids in the days following the act. One of them released immediately.

On 2 May 2012, the detained parties were charged by the public prosecution with the generic and unfounded accusation of “threatening state security”. If found guilty, the detained parties face a sentence of capital punishment or life imprisonment with forced labour. On 3 May 2012, the Mauritanian government issued a statement declaring Mr. Abeid’s act to be “despicable”, threatening with heavy sanctions for the parties involved. On 3 and 4 May, protests demanding that the members of the IRA be put to death have contributed to a hostile environment.

One month after the arrest of Mr. Abeid, a peaceful anti-slavery march was violently cracked down by the Mauritanian authorities. Several activists were severely injured and the wife of Mr. Abeid, Leila Mint Ahmed Khliva, was wounded by a grenade.

Mr. Abeid’s arrest, together with eleven other members and sympathizers of the IRA, highlights the failure of Mauritanian authorities to properly implement the rule of law in ensuring the basic human rights of its citizens are upheld.

I therefore urge the Mauritanian authorities to:

1.Guarantee the physical and psychological wellbeing of Mr. Abeid and the other imprisoned parties;

 2. Immediately grant visitation rights to the detained individuals and allow them acces to adequate legal support;

 3. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Biram Dah Abeid and the eleven IRA members and sympathizers and to drop any charges placed against them which, based on available evidence, are motivated solely to frustrate and curtail their peaceful and legitimate human rights work in Mauritania;

 4.Guarantee that human rights defenders in Mauritania are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities and that human rights activists are able to demonstrate in peaceful marches without the fear of reprisals;

 5. Ensure the application and implementation of the Mauritanian rule of law, specifically the anti-slavery laws of 1905, 1961, 1981 and 2007, the law of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 1998 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Yours sincerely,



Target Addresses

S.E. Gen. Mohamed ould Abdelaziz, President, Office of the President, Présidence de la République, BP 184, Nouakchott, Mauritania

Mr. Mohamed Ould Boilil, Minister of home affairs, BP 195, Nouakchott, Mauritania, [email protected], [email protected]

Mr. Abidine Ould El Khaire, Minister of Justice, BP 350, Nouakchott, Mauritania

Mr. Ba Koita Mariam, President of the National Commission for Human Rights, [email protected]

S.E. Embassador M. Cheikh Ahmed Ould Zahaf, Permanent Mission of Mauritania to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Rue de l’Ancien-Port 14, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland

S.E. Embassador M. Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Brahim Kh’lil, Mauritanian Embassy in Brussels, Avenue de la Colombie 6, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, [email protected]

Consulate General of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Houtlaan 24 F, 3016 DA Rotterdam, The Netherlands


For media queries please contact Martin Schulthes   |   +32 (0) 473 93 04 82   |   [email protected]

For the pdf version of the appeal for action, click here