Mauritania rights body criticizes 'brutal force' against protesters

Mauritania's human rights group representing the Haratins - former slaves of black African origin - has condemned the use of "brutal force" by the police against protesters who gathered outside parliament on Monday, Mauritanian media outlets have reported.

The demonstrators were demanding the release of the prominent anti-slavery campaigner Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid.

In a statement issued on Tuesday,
the Charter of the Political, Economic and Social Rights of the Haratin (also known as the Haratin Charter) called for the "immediate and unconditional release" of Mr Ould Abeid, who has been in police custody for more than two months, privately owned Sahara Media news website reported on the same day.

Mr Ould Abeid, the founding leader of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) and a former presidential candidate, was elected as an MP in September and continues to be imprisoned after his arrest in August over charges of "inciting violence" filed against him by a Mauritanian journalist.

The statement by the Haratin Charter called on the country's political parties and civil society organisations "to stand united against all violations of human rights", Sahara Media reported.

The statement defended the protesters' right to peaceful demonstrations, which it stressed was "guaranteed by the Mauritanian constitution and international conventions in force in the country", the report said.

A number of demonstrators were wounded in the police crackdown, with eight of the group's members needing medical treatment in hospital, the independent news agency Al-Akhbar quoted the Haratin rights body as saying.

On the day of the protest, Al-Akhbar posted several photographs of wounded protesters and its own photographer - who it said was beaten by the police and detained - showing some of them bleeding from head injuries.

The protest calling for the release of the anti-slavery leader was held outside the National Assembly building on the day of the opening of Mauritania's newly elected parliament.

The parliament session on Monday began with the names of new MPs being called out. When Mr Ould Abeid's name was read out, applause could be heard in the assembly hall, according to Sahara Media.


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