21 May 2012
Subject: VP/HR — Arrest of anti-slavery activist in Mauritania
On 28 April 2012, Biram Dah Abeid, the president of the Mauritanian anti-slavery movement Initiative de Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste de Mauritanie (IRA), was arrested in Nouakchott, along with other members, after he burned several pages of a Malikite theological book, a text which asserts that slavery is a practice encompassed by the Islamic faith.
In Mauritania, it is not a criminal offence to burn books. The authorities were therefore not able to obtain an official arrest warrant; nonetheless, twelve detainees, including a disabled person, were denied their right to legal counsel, and on 3 May 2012 were transported to an unknown location by the Mauritanian Secret Service (DSE). According to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), Mr Abeid was also taken to an unknown location.
In 2007, anti-slavery legislation was introduced, prohibiting any form of slavery in Mauritania. However, the IRA remains the only civil society organisation that is not allowed to operate by the Mauritanian authorities.
1. Is the Vice-President/High Representative aware of the case of Mr Biram Dah Abeid, and is she prepared to call for his immediate release along with the other members of the anti‑slavery movement IRA who have been unjustly detained by the Mauritanian authorities?
2. What steps has the EU taken with the Mauritanian Government to raise the issue of slavery? Can the VP/HR offer some examples?
3. According to the EEAS, how serious is the problem of slavery in Mauritania and the rest of the Sahel region?
Question for written answer to the Commission (Vice-President/High Representative)
Fiorello Provera (EFD)
29 June 2012
Joint answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Ashton on behalf of the Commission
The HR/VP is aware of the arrest and detention of Mr Biram Dah Ould Abeid and of several sympathisers of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) in Mauritania. The EEAS in Brussels and the EU Delegation in Mauritania are closely following this case.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Mauritania met, together with the Ambassadors of the Member States, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and expressed deep concern at the events, the treatment of Mr Biram Dah Ould Abeid and his colleagues. They also recalled the responsibility of Mauritania’s authorities to protect the physical and psychological inviolability of Mr Biram Dah Ould Abeid and the other detainees as well as to ensure a fair, transparent and impartial judicial procedure. The Delegation is in regular contact with NGOs and human right defenders on the ground and receives regular updates on the situation. The burning of writings of Islamic scholars is not a means of democratic expression and ultimately is not the best means of promoting an enlightened attitude in current circumstances in Mauritania. [my emphasis]
via Answer to a written question – Arbitrary arrest of Biram Dah Abeid, President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, and other human rights activists in Mauritania – E-004592/2012.