Critic: Twenty years since Human Rights Act, work only half done

| December 19, 2013
2013 Human Rights Prize winner Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania, a son of freed slaves and now a human rights defender and president of the anti-slavery NGO Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA).

2013 Human Rights Prize winner Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania, a son of freed slaves and now a human rights defender and president of the anti-slavery NGO Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA).

(GIN)—Created by a proclamation of the U.N. General Assembly, Dec. 10 is designated Human Rights Day with the lofty goal of alerting the “peoples of the world” to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard for all peoples and nations.

This year, senior U.N. officials and countries around the world, took time to reflect on the limited successes and some shortfalls in human rights records worldwide.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, in his message for the day, observed: “Promoting human rights is one of the core purposes of the United Nations and the organization has pursued this mission since its founding.”

But, he acknowledged, the record to date has been far from good. Over the past 20 years, he said, “the world has seen genocide and many other appalling and large-scale violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, noted that a huge amount of work remains “to transform human rights from abstract promises to genuine improvement in daily lives,” particularly among marginalized or excluded groups.

This year, Ms. Pillay’s group will honor six recipients of the 2013 Human Rights Prize, an honorary award given every 5 years to individuals and organizations.

Among the winners is Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania, a son of freed slaves and now a human rights defender and president of the anti-slavery NGO Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA).

Despite opposition from the Mauritanian government, which refuses to recognize IRA-Mauritania, Mr. Dah Abeid publically attacks the “slave code” and has helped win the release of hundreds of slaves. In response, he has faced arbitrary detention, public harassment and torture. In April 2012, Mr. Dah Abeid was arrested and detained for four months along with six other members of IRA.

Although the government abolished slavery in 1981, the West African nation still has the highest prevalence of slavery in the world, with an estimated 140,000 enslaved.

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Category: Africa Briefs

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