WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, released the following statement Wednesday after being updated on the arrests of several anti-slavery activists in Mauritania:
“Last week I had the great privilege of meeting Mr. Biram Dah Abeid and Mr. Brahim B. Ramdhane at the State Department launch of the 2016 Trafficking in Persons report. These remarkable gentlemen were both born as children of slaves, and have gone on to channel their hardship into a movement to end slavery and human trafficking. Both gentlemen were awarded by the State Department for their leadership in calling for greater justice and accountability in their home country of Mauritania.
“I learned this morning that at nearly the same time I was meeting with Secretary Kerry and this year’s awardees, including Mr. Abeid and Mr. Ramdhane, the Mauritanian government was arresting nine members of their organization, the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA). IRA is the largest anti-slavery organization in Mauritania, with members throughout the country who regularly mobilize to protest slavery and state-endorsed discrimination based in race, caste and gender. As I and State understand, there have still been no formal charges against the nine and the standard 72 hour pre-trial window, as called for in Mauritanian law, has closed.
“It’s no secret that Mauritania has one of the worst records in the world when it comes to the scourge of modern slavery. I call on the government of Mauritania to immediately release these individuals and instead of arresting or harassing those who advocate for universal human rights, recommend they use more of their resources to end slavery in their own country.”