Mauritania urged to release civil society activists

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Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)

Authorities in Mauritania have been urged by the United Nations to release activists arrested exercising their right to freedom of assembly.

The UN human rights office says it has been closely following the judicial proceedings against members of the anti-slavery Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA).

They were arrested and prosecuted after a demonstration in Rosso in the south-west of the country in November last year.

Daniel Dickinson reports.

Three men, including former presidential candidate Biram Dah Abeid, are serving two-year sentences according to the UN human rights office.

They were convicted on charges that include so-called "illegal assembly' and "refusal to carry out orders given by the administrative authorities".

Another three people remain in detention on separate charges.

Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says the authorities have been urged to carry out an investigation into the events of last November, including the behaviour of security forces.

"Regrettably, such an investigation has yet to be set up, in spite of concerns that our office has repeatedly expressed to the authorities on possible violations of the right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of association. We urge the Government of Mauritania to immediately conduct such an investigation, and to release all those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of association." (23")

The UN has also called on the government of Mauritania to ensure that those involved in the judicial process, including prosecutors, carry out their work in line with international human rights norms and standards.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations.

Duration: 1'17"

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