May 07, 2013

Haratin: Anti-Slavery Campaigner Receives 2013 Front Line Defenders Award

Biram Dah Abeid, director of the Mauritanian anti-slavery movement “Initiative pour la Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste”, has been awarded the Front Line Defendes Award by the President of Ireland. 

Below is an article published by Front Line Defenders:

On Friday 3 May, President Michael D Higgins of Ireland presented the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk to anti-slavery campaigner Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania, founder and director of Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, Initiative pour la Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste (IRA).

Biram Dah Abeid was selected from a total of 100 nominees from 40 countries on the basis of his exceptional courage defending the rights of the more than 500,000 people who are held as slaves in Mauritania.

Speaking at the Award ceremony Front Line Defenders Executive Director Mary Lawlor said “It is entirely fitting that we honour Biram Dah Abeid's work to end slavery in Mauritania in this room dominated by the statue of Daniel O'Connell - the liberator - the man who worked to end Ireland's own version of slavery with the ending of the penal laws and Catholic emancipation. Biram Dah Abeid follows in those heroic footsteps”

Despite the legal abolition of slavery in Mauritania and the Government's refusal to acknowledge its persistence, slavery remains endemic in Mauritania, accounting for between 10% and 20% of the population. Human rights defenders who speak out and challenge the practice are targeted by those who refuse to accept change.

Biram Dah Abeid has been threatened, defamed and harassed because of his work defending human rights and against slavery in Mauritania. He has been arrested and ill-treated on several occasions and in April 2012 he was “disappeared” for several weeks into a secret, high-security government facility, without being able to contact to his family and without any legal assistance. IRA Mauritania and other human rights defenders in the country believe he would have been killed but for the international outcry. He was released in September 2012 and continues his work inside Mauritania.

Despite the constant harassment and threat of arrest Biram Dah Abeid has sworn to continue the struggle until slavery is finally eliminated in Mauritania.

The Front Line Defenders Award – for Human Rights Defenders at Risk is presented annually to one human rights defender who has made an exceptional contribution to the cause of human rights in his/her country. Selected by a Jury consisting of members of the Irish and European Parliaments the Award has, in the past, been presented to human rights defenders from Syria, the Russian Federation, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uzbekistan and Sudan. Front Line Defenders hopes that, in addition to recognising the work done by the winner, the publicity surrounding the Award will act as an additional form of protection in the future.