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West African nation Mauritania jailed and tortured Anti-slavery Activists, says Campaigner

Slavery is a historical practice in Mauritania, which became the last country worldwide to legally abolish it in 1981

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Anti-slavery activists
Mauritanian anti-slavery protesters march to demand the liberation of imprisoned abolitionist leader Biram Dah Abeid in Nouakchott, May 26, 2012. VOA

DAKAR, Oct 02, 2016: Mauritanian anti-slavery activists jailed last month have been tortured in detention and transferred to a remote desert location in an “intensification of repression” by the state, a leading campaigner said.

The West African nation in August jailed 13 members of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) for up to 15 years for their role in June protests by residents of a slum in the capital Nouakchott, many of whom are former slaves.

Slavery is a historical practice in Mauritania, which became the last country worldwide to legally abolish it in 1981.

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Today some 43,000 people — or at least one percent of the population — live as slaves, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index. Yet other estimates put the number as high as 20 percent in a country that is a focus of activism by the modern anti-slavery movement.

The 13 activists have been tortured and were this week moved to the desert north where they are cut off from their families, doctors, and lawyers, according to members of the IRA in the northern town of Zouerate who were informed of the relocation.

Mauritanian government officials did not respond for requests to comment.

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“This intensification of repression is equal to the intensification of the fight [against slavery],” Biram Dah Abeid, head of the IRA and an opposition politician, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Dakar, Senegal.

anti-slavery activists
Mauritanian Politician and Advocate for the Abolition of Slavery, Biram Dah Abeid (right in the photo,in beige suit). Wikimedia

“Our colleagues suffered physical and psychological harm,” he said, adding that people cannot even visit the prisoners’ families for fear of being watched by the government.

The activists said they were not present at the protests and that the trial was an attempt by the state to discredit the IRA.

Anti-Slavery International called the sentences a “devastating blow” to the Mauritanian anti-slavery movement.

A European Union delegation said last month it was concerned by “credible allegations” of torture and violations of legal procedures in the case against the activists, and urged the Mauritanian authorities to investigate.

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The Haratin, who make up Mauritania’s main “slave caste,” are descended from black African ethnic groups along the Senegal river. They often work as cattle herders and domestic servants.

The West African nation criminalised slavery in 2007 and a new law passed last year makes the offence a crime against humanity and doubles the prison term for offenders to 20 years.

The jailing of two slave-owners in May and the release of Abeid and activist Brahim Bilal, who had been in prison for 18 months after taking part in an anti-slavery march, were hailed as a turning point in the fight to end the practice.

But Abeid, who has been jailed several times and came a distant second in a 2014 presidential election, said the moves were merely “an illusion” of progress. (VOA)

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USA: Everything you want to know about Security Clearance; Find out here!

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas.

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Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. We take a look at what that means.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas after completion of a background check. The clearance by itself does not guarantee unlimited access. The agency seeking the clearance must determine what specific area of information the person needs to access.

What are the different levels of security clearance?

There are three levels: Confidential, secret and top secret. Security clearances don’t expire. But, top secret clearances are reinvestigated every five years, secret clearances every 10 years and confidential clearances every 15 years.

All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA
All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA

Who has security clearances?

According to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, about 4.2 million people had a security clearance as of 2015, they included military personnel, civil servants, and government contractors.

Why does one need a security clearance in retirement?

Retired senior intelligence officials and military officers need their security clearances in case they are called to consult on sensitive issues.

Also Read: Governments Across The World Request Apple for 30,000 Device Information

Can the president revoke a security clearance?

Apparently. But there is no precedent for a president revoking someone’s security clearance. A security clearance is usually revoked by the agency that sought it for an employee or contractor. All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance, which can include criminal acts, lack of allegiance to the United States, behavior or situation that could compromise an individual and security violations. (VOA)