UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday welcomed the release of two human rights activists from prison in Mauritania by a decision of the Supreme Court.
Ban “commends efforts by the Mauritanian authorities to strengthen the rule of law and urges the judicial authorities to pursue their efforts to carefully investigate the circumstances that led to the arrests of the activists,” a UN statement said.
“The secretary-general also encourages the Mauritanian Government to pursue its efforts to promote national unity and social cohesion,” it added.
The anti-slavery activists, Biram Dah Abeid and Brahim Ould Bilal, campaigned against practices they said continued to exist in the country despite an official ban.
Sentenced to two years in prison in 2015, they were released Tuesday after the Supreme Court ruled their punishment to be excessive.
Although Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1981, some of its practices persist.
The government enacted a new law last year that makes slavery a crime against humanity, doubling the maximum punishment to 20 years in prison.