July 1, 2016
UNPO is very glad to learn that the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), US Department of State, has chosen Mr Biram Dah Abeid and Mr Brahim Bilal Ramdhane among its 2016 heroes. Mr Abeid and Mr Ramdhane are the founders of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), an organisation that struggles against injustice and slavery in Mauritania. Their activism has led to their unjust imprisonment for 18 months (2014-2016). The whole judicial process, as thoroughly reported by UNPO, violated several procedural laws and during their detention the two activists were deprived of many rights normally recognised to prisoners. The two activists and their organisation have received human rights awards on numerous occasions in the last years.
Photo courtesy of Senator Paul Strass.
The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (US Department of State) published a profile of its 2016 Mauritania Heroes:
The partnership between two dynamic activists, Biram Abeid and Brahim Ramdhane, has been critical in reducing human trafficking in Mauritania, a country where slavery was not formally outlawed until 1981. Mr. Abeid, a lawyer, researcher, human rights activist, writer, translator (French-Arabic), and President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), and Mr. Ramdhane, a professor of philosophy and Arabic language, and Vice President of IRA, are both the children of slaves, who have chosen careers focused on confronting injustice in Mauritania.
Mr. Abeid and Mr. Ramdhane have successfully mounted provocative and high-profile anti-trafficking campaigns that have significantly contributed to new government institutions, laws, and specialized courts designed to combat human trafficking. These advances facilitated the first indictment in Mauritania for slave-holding and the first prison sentence in 2011 under the 2007 anti-slavery law, and the 2012 constitutional reform that made slavery a crime against humanity.
In November 2014, Mr. Abeid and Mr. Ramdhane were arrested together for their leading roles in a protest against the continued practice of slavery in Mauritania as well as discriminatory land use policies and related abuses suffered by non-Arab, sub-Saharan minorities. Both the Haratine (slave descendants) and sub-Saharan communities are grossly underrepresented in government, military, and economic leadership positions due to systematic discrimination in favor of the Beydane (white Moor) minority. The men shared a cell until their release in May 2016.
The organization they established, IRA, and its leaders have been recognized internationally on numerous occasions, including: the 2016 James Lawson Award from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, the 2015 Human Rights Tulip awarded by the Dutch government, the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award, and the 2013 United Nations Human Rights prize, among others.
Each year, the Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. These individuals are NGO workers, lawmakers, police officers, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery. They are recognized for their tireless efforts—despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives—to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad. For more information about current and past Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes, including how to connect with them, please visit the Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes Global Network at www.tipheroes.org.