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Mauritania: UN expert encouraged by progress but says more work needed to fully eradicate slavery

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                            A UN human rights expert today hailed progress in strengthening Mauritania's legal framework and building political will to combat slavery, but warned that much work remains to be done.





At the end of a 10-day visit to the country, Tomoya Obokata, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, urged the authorities to take urgent action to speed up the implementation of Mauritania's anti-slavery legislation and address the practical and legal issues.  , and social obstacles for people affected by slavery to seek justice and achieve equality.
Mauritania: UN expert encouraged by progress but says more work needed to fully eradicate slavery

A UN human rights expert today hailed progress in strengthening Mauritania‘s legal framework and building political will to combat slavery, but warned that much work remains to be done.

At the end of a 10-day visit to the country, Tomoya Obokata, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, urged the authorities to take urgent action to speed up the implementation of Mauritania‘s anti-slavery legislation and address the practical and legal issues. , and social obstacles for people affected by slavery to seek justice and achieve equality.

“I thank the government for welcoming my visit and for the cooperation extended to my mandate by the highest authorities, including the country’s president,” Obokata said in a statement. “I was heartened by the president’s acknowledgment during our meeting that slavery denial is not the right approach, and his stated commitment to end slavery, bring perpetrators to justice, and promote the social and economic inclusion of ex-enslaved people.

“Since the last visit of my term in 2014, Mauritania has taken important steps to combat slavery and there is a greater willingness to openly discuss slavery issues,” said Obokata. “The adoption of Law 2015-031 criminalizing slavery and analogous practices addressed many of the gaps in Mauritania‘s previous anti-slavery legislation. I am also encouraged by the efforts made by the Government to raise awareness of the law among legal professionals, judicial police, security forces, civil society and the general public.”

However, Obokata warned that contemporary and descent-based forms of slavery continue to exist in Mauritania, within and among all of the country’s main ethnic groups, as well as among certain groups. “Movable property slavery persists in Mauritania, despite denial of the practice in some quarters,” he said.

“Enslaved people, particularly women and children, are subject to violence and abuse, including sexual violence, and are treated like property. Caste-based slavery is also a problem, as people from repressed castes who deny their slave status face violent reprisals and denial of access to basic services by ruling castes.

“Child labor remains a concern, in particular the practice of forced begging, and forced labor practices are common in the informal sector in Mauritania, affecting both immigrants and Mauritanian citizens.”

Obokata noted that full implementation of Mauritania‘s anti-slavery legislation remains elusive and called for increased efforts to achieve full implementation of the country’s anti-slavery legal framework and to address deeply entrenched social practices.

“The continued existence of slavery and other practices analogous to slavery in Mauritania sadly demonstrates that the relevant laws are not applied in practice and that social transformation and a change in the mindset of the country’s leaders is needed to recognize and address fully bondage in place. to deny its existence,” Obokata said.

“Greater effort is needed to ensure that complaints of slavery are investigated and prosecuted in a timely manner, that victims of slavery are aware of their rights and can effectively access complaint mechanisms, as well as protection and assistance, and that the sanctions are applied in their entirety. .”

Obokata also received reports that enslaved people and their descendants faced challenges in registering with the Mauritanian civil registry, a prerequisite for access to education, formal employment and basic services.

“Without access to formal employment and education, victims of slavery and their children have no viable pathways out of slavery and remain trapped in a vicious cycle of dependency on their enslavers or exploitative forms of labour,” Obokata said. “It is imperative that the government address these communities’ barriers to civil registration.”

During his visit, Obokata met with the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, His Excellency Mr. Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, and the Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr. Mohamed Ould Bilal Messoud, as well as other government officials. He also met with civil society, workers’ associations, the diplomatic community and the UN, as well as human rights defenders, victims of slavery and migrants. He had meetings in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.

The report of the Special Rapporteur on the visit will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2023.

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