This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 1 July 2016.
In response to the arrest and disappearance of six anti-slavery activists in Mauritania on June 29-30 - just as the president and vice-president of the anti-slavery organization IRA-Mauritania received the U.S State Department's Heroes Award for their work against human trafficking - Freedom House issued the following statement:
"Intimidation and violence targeting anti-slavery activists continues in Mauritania despite the government's claims that reforms are underway to reduce the prevalence of slavery there," said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Africa programs. "The Mauritanian government should immediately disclose the whereabouts of the arrested activists, bring them to court if they are suspected of any crimes, or promptly release them."
Diop Amatidjane, third vice president of IRA-Mauritania, was arrested June 30 by police at his home. Police also arrested Balla Touré, external relations officer. The whereabouts of Amatidjane and Touré along with four other IRA members remain unknown.
Biram dah Abeid and Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, IRA-Mauritania's president and vice-president, were released from jail on May 17, after 19 months in custody for organizing a protest against the continued practice of slavery in Mauritania. The State Department honored them June 30 for their anti-slavery efforts.
Mauritania is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016 and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2016.