Human rights: Radical mission in Mauritania to fight slavery, death penalty and female genital mutilations.
Nonviolent Radical Party’s mission to Nouakchott, led by Marco Pannella, ended in the evening of December 24. The delegation included also members of the Italian Parliament and co-vice-presidents of the Party’s senate Matteo Mecacci (Rapporteur on human rights at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, just coming from Minsk where he served as an observer for the disputed Belarus elections) and Marco Perduca (secretary of the special committee on human rights of the Italian Senate), as well as Stefano Marrella for Radio Radicale. During four days they met local officials, NGOs struggling against slavery, diplomats and media in order to promote two of the current most important Party’s campaigns, respectively for the Universal Moratorium of death penalty (carried out together with Hands Off Cain) and against female genital mutilations (carried out together with No Peace Without Justice), but also to closely monitor the situation of Nonviolent Radical Party’s member Biram Dah Abeid, who had been arrested in Nouakchott on December 13.
The mission took place also as part of Hands Off Cain’s campaign aiming to broaden support to UN Resolution on Moratorium of the executions and to promote its local implementation. In a long and cordial meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, Ms Naha Mint Mouknass, emphasized that managing to confirm their abstention was very important for her country, as Mauritania since independence is an Islamic republic where different religions and interpretations of the Koran coexist – what makes complex the relations between the legal tradition of the ex colony and the sharia. However, the Minister stressed the secular approach to the matter, also because in the last 25 years no execution was carried out although death penalty sentences have been issued. She is ready to participate personally and with a parliamentary delegation at the sub-regional conference Hands Off Cain is going to organize for predominantly Muslim African countries in 2011, while – she noticed – the threat by Al Qaeda terrorist cells would require to temporarily maintain the death penalty.
On the other hand, the Minister stressed that Mauritania is ready to play a leading role for the campaign against female genital mutilations, and she would immediately give instructions to the permanent representative at the UN of her country to coordinate with the Italian diplomats to get the text of a Resolution on this issue submitted as soon as possible. Finally, Ms Naha Mint Mouknass, in absence of the Minister of Justice, facilitated a meeting of the Radical delegation with Biram.
Before visiting the prison of Nouakchott, Pannella, Mecacci, Perduca and Marrella met the Secretary General for National Security in order to get information about the place and modalities of the meeting and to listen to the version by the police commissioner of the Arafat district, where allegedly took place facts that provoked the unrest after which, last week, a dozen of anti-slavery militants were arrested. The general said Mauritania is probably the “Arab country” where civil liberties are guaranteed to everybody, but organizations should be recognized. On this issue many NGOs that met the Radical delegation in Nouakchott asked for clear answers from the government: in fact, 4 out of 6 groups of FLERE (Front for the Liberation from Slavery, Racism and Exclusion) did not receive any answer yet from the Ministry of Internal Affairs about their application for registration as NGOs. The general, who was not completely competent on the issue, mentioned possible problems about inquiries over “morality” of the organizations (apparently already completed and positively) and said he would get further information. Beside formal aspects, still important, the head of Mauritanian National Security reminded that “Biram and his fellows” till the moment of their arrest had been able to say, write and demonstrate “free” everything they wanted, but that clearly “violence cannot be waived”. As an evidence of the alleged violence, the general wanted the Radicals hear directly from the police commissioner of Arafat district what had happened. According to the officer, who came in uniform, on December 13 a group of human rights activists went to his office to denounce the state of slavery two girls, respectively 7 and 13 years old, were kept in by a woman official of the National Bank. As Biram Dah Abeid was not allowed to assist to the interrogation, an altercation led to the “aggression” to policemen by human rights activists there. Meanwhile, according to the commissioner, another group of activists who were waiting outside would have stormed the office by throwing stones (although in that neighborhood there would be no stone). The scuffle between the groups had a serious growing, so that the commissioner himself was wounded at his right tibia.
The meeting with Biram took place later in the administrative offices of the Nouakchott prison, one of the smallest prisons in the country. There are detained about 40 prisoners, all awaiting trial and many accused of terrorism. Biram, visibly moved by the presence of Pannella and of the other fellow members of the Nonviolent Radical Party, showed a wound on his head, now healed after ten days, and complained about severe pains on his left knee. Following his arrest and police harassment (hitting, isolation in terrible hygienic conditions, deprivation of medicines and denudation) Biram was not yet examined by x-ray to understand the gravity of what occurred.
Although his transfer to the prison after three days in police custody relatively improved his conditions of detention, Biram, who started taking medicines but still sleeps poorly because of pain ah his head and leg, believes it is unworthy the way he is allowed to see his wife in a parlor with bars, as it is the fact that he has been able to meet his lawyer only ten days after being arrested. Pannella told Biram that many members of the Nonviolent Radical Party had sent him messages of solidarity and closeness – among them Sam Rainsy, president of the main opposition party in Cambodia; the lawyer from Mali Demba Traoré (who could not join the delegation because he was traveling to Senegal) and the Senegalese activist against female genital mutilations Kady Khoita. Biram was also informed that the Radical delegations in the Italian Parliament and member of the European Parliament Fiorello Provera had submitted urgent interrogations on his case. Supported by the international reaction to the arrests – while other 5 persons, out of the 12 arrested, are still detained – Biram decided to insist to be trialed because he considers a scandal that, three years after the adoption of the anti-slavery law in Mauritania no case has been finalized yet. The preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 29. As required by the prisons’ regulations, the delegation was not allowed to discuss the case in details nor – though on this point the regulations are not clear – to take a picture with the detainee.
The mission ended with a final meeting with human rights defenders, with former slave girls recently freed and with a meeting in the residence of the President of the National Assembly, Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, historic leader of the anti-slavery movement, who had first issued clear statements against the arrest of Biram. Pannella invited the President to both the upcoming Congress of Nonviolent Radical Party and Hands Off Cain’s international Conference, while Mecacci announced he will ask a Mauritanian parliamentary delegation be invited to the annual meeting of OSCE with Northern African countries on widely understood regional security issues, including human trafficking.
Mauritanian Senator Youssouf Sylla, recently suspended from the party of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation as WikiLeaks presented him as “close to Israel”, joined as a member the Nonviolent Radical Party and announced that other Mauritanian colleagues will join the party as well.
All the meetings have been recorded and the press conferences have been broadcasted live on www.radioradicale.it. An extensive photographic coverage of the mission is available on Facebook profiles of both Marco Pannella and Marco Perduca, and a media review will be posted on www.RadicalParty.org.
Members and contributors 2013
|Giuseppe R. Roma||590 €|
|Salvatore P. Capistrello||200 €|
|Giancarlo B. Torino||30 €|
|Marco B. Merano||20 €|
|Davide B. Prato||50 €|
|Giuseppe P. Grottammare||50 €|
|Maurizio T. Roma||1.000 €|
|Rosa A. Firenze||590 €|
|Giuliano G. Sondrio||590 €|
|Sergio Pasquale R. Cremona||500 €|
|Total SUM||326.746 €|