Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Slavery in Mauritania

Map of Mauritania We received the following press release from the United Nations:

While noting the significant steps that have been taken in Mauritania to tackle slavery, an independent United Nations human rights expert today called for a comprehensive strategy to put an end to this scourge, warning of its impact on the country’s future.   

“Unaddressed, slavery in all its forms may be an obstacle to the stability, sustainable development and prosperity of Mauritania,” said Gulnara Shahinian, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, at the end of her visit to the country.

During her visit, Ms. Shahinian met with various Government authorities, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and visited communities in Atar, Rosso and the capital, Nouakchott.

She met with people who told her that they had been victims of slavery practices such as serfdom and domestic servitude.

“These victims said that they were utterly deprived of their basic human rights,” she said in a news release. “Having no alternative, they voluntarily stay or after fleeing, return back to slavery. This perpetuates the vicious circle of slavery for men, women and children. The women I met felt that they were the most vulnerable as they suffer triple discrimination firstly as women, secondly, as mothers and thirdly as slaves.”

She commended the country for taking legal measures to eradicate all forms of slavery, including the passing in 2007 of the law criminalizing the phenomenon, which she said sends “a clear message that slavery can never be tolerated in Mauritania.”   

She recommended that a sustained awareness-raising campaign be carried out in the urban and rural areas to make all Mauritanians aware of the law. In addition, to encourage victims to come forward, she suggested that the slavery law include provisions that offer victim assistance and socio-economic programmes for their reintegration into society.   

“A comprehensive and holistic national strategy specifically addressing slavery that includes awareness raising, access to basic services and income-generating activities is required in order to effectively put an end to this phenomenon,” said the Special Rapporteur.

Ms. Shahinian, who was appointed to her post in May 2008, works in an independent and unpaid capacity, and reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. 

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