UN marks International Remembrance Day of Victims of Slavery, whilst Mauritania continues to sit on the body’s Human Rights Council.

Today, activities kick-off at the UN in the lead up to International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, marked on March 25th. Events will include an exhibition, a film screening, a book signing, a culinary evening and a concert, as well as briefings and a “Solemn Commemorative Meeting.”

Yet, whilst the UN marks this day in the most respectable fashion, it does not show this same respect for the real victims of slavery, who continue to suffer whilst the international community ignores their cries.

There are an estimated 600,000 slaves in Mauritania today – and according to testimony given by Abidine Merzough, Mauritanian anti-slavery activist, at this year’s Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, this dastardly phenomenon shows no sign of changing soon. “Slaves are their masters’ property, often from birth. Women slaves are allowed to be sexually abused whenever their masters want. The masters can buy or sell slaves or loan out parts of their bodies for use… The slaves must obey. This is Islamic law as it exists in Mauritania today,” Merzough explained.

Yet not only has the UN produced no resolutions condemning this practice, it actually allows Mauritania to sit as a member of its Human Rights Council, the highest ranking human rights body within the UN system. Moreover, it holds the coveted title of one of the Council’s four Vice Presidents.

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