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2015 Human Rights Tulip awarded to IRA-Mauritania

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The 2015 Human Rights Tulip was awarded on International Human Rights Day, Thursday 10 December, to IRA-Mauritania, an organisation from Mauritania that is working to abolish slavery. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, will present the €100,000 prize and the accompanying bronze tulip sculpture to Abidine Merzough, the European representative of IRA-Mauritania.

This article was originally published on Human Rights Tulip website.

The Human Rights Tulip is the annual human rights prize awarded by the Dutch government. It is intended for human rights defenders who work courageously and innovatively to promote human rights. Working both in Mauritania and at international level, IRA-Mauritania (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania) is drawing attention to the issue of slavery and supporting victims in building a new life. ‘IRA-Mauritania stands up for people who are marginalised and excluded, and in this way it makes an important contribution to the battle against slavery,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘That is why I have decided to award the Human Rights Tulip to this organisation this year.’

Thousands of people in Mauritania are living in conditions which could be described as modern slavery. Many are born into and grow up as part of a household in which they receive no pay for their work. Often they are also mistreated. What’s more, they are prevented from owning land, attending school or participating in politics. The most common victims of such abuses are women and children.

In August this year slavery was made a crime against humanity under Mauritanian law. Mr Koenders said that the Netherlands welcomes this positive development and pointed out how important it is for the Mauritanian authorities to enforce this law.

‘Fighting injustice is the essence of the work done by human rights defenders,’ continued Mr Koenders. ‘I have visited the beautiful country of Mauritania on several occasions in recent years. The battle against slavery there needs our support. It is terrible to witness how slavery endures, but I think it’s great that IRA-Mauritania is working to eliminate the practice.’

Human rights are the cornerstone of Mr Koenders’ foreign policy. ‘Of course, it is not enough to reflect on human rights once a year. I will continue every day to emphasise the importance of complying with human rights obligations, especially now, when the focus is understandably on combating terrorism and addressing security challenges. Human rights organisations are our allies, as they work towards peaceful, free societies. We need to prevent them from being impeded by incorrectly applied counterterrorism measures, whether here or elsewhere. They must be able to continue their important work.’

IRA-Mauritania will receive €100,000 to continue its work. At the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch NGO Hivos will also support the organisation’s activities.


Watch What's Up Africa's 'Mauritania, A Slavery Paradise'.