Aug 23, 2012

UNPO General Secretary's Statement on the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition


UNPO General Secretary Marino Busdachin's Statement on the 2012 UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition.


Brussels, 23 August 2012 – On the occasion of the 2012 UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) joins in the commemoration of those who suffered as a result of their enslavement, and to draw awareness to those whose lives continue to reflect the tragedy of the slave trade today.   Today’s Day of Remembrance aims to collectively consider the historic roots and causes that led to the slave trade, its effects, and present an opportunity for UNESCO Member States to promote intercultural dialogue, and in UNESCO’s words, ‘further the values of tolerance, respect, acceptance and appreciation of the equal dignity of human beings.’

‘Today is an opportunity to not only consider the historical origins of the slave trade, but also to shed light on its legacy today and conditions that have remained unchanged,’ stated UNPO General Secretary, Marino Busdachin, who noted thatwe cannot let today pass without drawing attention to the current situation of Biram Ould Abeid, president of the ‘Initiative de Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste de Mauritanie’ (IRA), who remains imprisoned for his anti-slavery activism in Mauritania, along with six fellow activists. I urge the Mauritanian authorities in the strongest of terms to release Ould Abeid and his fellow activists, and to take active measures to finally end the practice of slavery in Mauritania.’

Biram Ould Abeid was arrested in May 2012, following his act of burning several pages of a Malikite theological book, according to which slavery is encompassed by the Islamic faith. The aim of Mr. Abeid was to draw attention to how slavery continues to be embedded in Mauritanian society at a cultural and religious level. Although Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981, it was not until 2007 that legislation officially criminalising slave owners was passed. However to date, the Mauritanian judiciary have only prosecuted one case, and an estimated 10% to 20% of Mauritania’s 3.4 million population remain enslaved.     

In light of this, the Mauritanian authorities must implement its anti-slavery legislation in order to bring an end to contemporary forms of slavery, and to release Biram Ould Abeid and his fellow activists from prison. Furthermore, Mauritania, as a UNESCO Member State, should use the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition to encourage all Mauritanians to consider the historical causes of slavery in Mauritania and the legacy it continues to have today.

Note to Editors:

 Contemporary slaves carry a value of $90 which is a historic low. Two hundred years ago, a slave cost approximately $40,000 in values adjusted for today according to commentary by CNN.

UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Gulnara Shahinian noted that in Mauritania slavery ‘… victims said that they were utterly deprived of their basic human rights. Having no alternative, they voluntarily stay or after fleeing, return back to slavery. This perpetuates the vicious circle of slavery for men, women and children.’

 For more information on the situation of Biram Ould Abeid, please click here

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Reflecting on the 2012 UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition, Brahim Abeid Vice President of IRA Mauritania and Abidine Ould-Merzough Representative of IRA Mauritania in Europe issued a joint statement on the issue of contemporary slavery in Mauritania:

Slavery is still existing in Mauritania, and that is valid especially for the shameful slavery type, “slavery per ascendance” - bondage -  where people are born into slavery and remain their whole lives as owned objects. The masters, mostly white moors, retain the command and the authority of the slaves’ life and death. The masters justify the slavery practices by specific Islamic rules and interpretations that have been spread in Mauritania during the time between the 12th and the 14th century.

Today the masters in Mauritania, in hidden practices, can sell slaves or give them away as gifts during wedding events. It has also been reported about several cases where Mauritanian masters, mostly religious persons, give slaves as presents to Islamic sheikhs in the Gulf States (such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar) in order to get money and funds backing return. One case was confirmed recently by a journalist of Errissala  (Saudia Arabia television broadcaster)who confirmed his boss was given a slave girl by a Mauritanian Imam.

The persons most affected by slavery in Mauritania are boys, girls and young ladies. The government and authority circles are accomplices with the masters and combat with all their energy the defenders of human rights who [are] intent to change the established slavery system. Recently the President of Mauritania declared on national public media (TV & Radio) that slavery does not exist in [the] country while the human right defenders presented several slavery cases and requested to treat them [sic] by the justice [authorities]. Such acts from the side of the land’s highest leader proves that Mauritania’s strategy remains unchanged after more than fifty years of hiding and denying slavery.


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Speaking from Nouakchott , President of SOS-Esclaves Boubacar Messaoud and Vice-President of IRA–Mauritanie Brahim Bilal Ebeid issued a joint statement to join in the commemerations of the UNESCO Day:

Initially launched by the UNESCO, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is observed annually on August 23.

Indeed, it was during the night of the 22nd to the 23rd August 1791 that the uprising that was to play a decisive role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade started in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

The observance of this international day aims at framing the tragedy of the Slave Trade within the memory of all peoples. It should be of particular importance in Mauritania since slavery is still alive and well in this country, as tragically exemplified by the numerous cases brought to light for years by Human Rights organizations.

The UNESCO Director-General has officially invited the Ministries of Culture from all the member States to organize ceremonies of remembrance. The Mauritanian authorities as a whole and more particularly the Ministry of Culture kept completely silent about this major date – further proof of their continuing shameful attitude of denial of slavery.

In the light of such contempt displayed by the Mauritanian authorities towards all the victims that carry in their flesh and souls the indelible marks of the torments of centuries of slavery in Mauritania, SOS – Esclaves and IRA – Mauritanie:

-       Lament the attitude of the Mauritanian authorities who overlook such an important remembrance date dedicated to the victims of slavery,

-       Recall that the Mauritanian authorities, instead of commemorating the victims of slavery, strive to sabotage the actions led by antislavery activists and try to silence them by any possible means,

-       Proclaim their unflagging solidarity with the victims of slavery, racism, and all the forms of oppression throughout the world.

-        Demand the immediate liberation of Biram Dah Abeid and of other detained abolitionists victims of arbitrary arrests,

-       Call the Mauritanian Human Rights organizations to mobilize and stand firm against racism and slavery in Mauritania, and finally,

-       Repeat their commitment to spare no effort and no sacrifice to completely eradicate slavery in Mauritania.