Mauritania is backsliding in efforts to eliminate descent-based slavery, an activist and opposition member has warned, as the West African country joined the U.N. Human Rights Council for the first time this week.
Biram Dah Abeid called on other U.N. members to pressure Mauritania, the last country in the world to abolish slavery, to end the practice as it joined the body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world.
"I think this is a denial of the very principles on which the United Nations is based," said Abeid, who has twice run for president and leads the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), a Mauritanian anti-slavery group.
"We will fight so that the Human Rights Council is really a human rights council, not one infiltrated by states that flout human rights," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A coalition of international human rights groups also protested Mauritania's election last year to the 47-nation council, whose 2020 session opened in Geneva on Monday, citing its failure to protect human rights at home.