WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, released the following statement Saturday after thirteen Mauritanian anti-slavery activists were sentenced to prison:
“I was dismayed to learn of the jailing by a Mauritanian tribunal of members of the Resurgence of Abolitionist Movement, the largest anti-slavery organization in Mauritania. The tribunal’s verdict and sentencing of these activists, who have been fighting to eliminate the great stains on humanity of slavery and trafficking are appalling. This is a significant step backward in the fight to end slavery in Mauritania and around the world.
“I had the great privilege of meeting with two members of the Resurgence of Abolitionist Movement in July, when they were celebrated as Trafficking in Persons heroes at the State Department. Yet, even while we were honoring them for working to change the culture of impunity surrounding slavery in Mauritania, the government was arresting members of their organization.
“According to the International Labor Organization, there are at least 21 million victims of modern slavery in the world. This is unacceptable in the 21st century, and the Mauritanian court’s action undermines the efforts of those who believe in freedom and human dignity, and who fight to end slavery in all its forms. I urge the Mauritanian government to uphold its commitment to ending slavery, and to take all steps necessary to overturn the convictions and release the activists as soon as possible.”