Jan 23, 2015

Mauritanian Roadmap Insufficient to Combat Consequences of Slavery

Photo courtesy of Luca Catalano Gonzaga.

Despite having abolished slavery three times in its history, the last time being in 1981, the Republic of Mauritania is ranked first in the Global Slavery Index. Additionally, former slaves face extreme financial difficulties and, not knowing what to do or where to go, they often fall back into conditions of para-slavery, sometimes under the authority of their same former master. The Government recognised in recent years that the problem still exists and in 2014 it approved a Roadmap to Combat the Consequences of Slavery and created a Special Tribunal to prosecute cases of slavery.

The Roadmap was approved as a response to the 2010 UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery’s report. This shows, at least in theory, a commitment of the State to take up its responsibilities and to accelerate the resolution of the situation that Mauritania has been lingering in for decades, despite the criminalisation of slavery in 2007, poorly implemented, and the constitutional reform in 2012, which incorporated the prohibition of slavery in its article 13.

With the assistance and input from UNPO, law students at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, have conducted a study as part of their course ‘Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Workshop’ which assesses whether the Roadmap approved in 2014 is sufficient to achieve the purposes wished for by the Special Rapporteur and whether Mauritania’s commitment to adhere to it is credible. The study concludes that despite the very precise recommendations of the Special Rapporteur, Mauritania’s Roadmap is in fact not the comprehensive and coherent approach she was hoping for. Mauritania’s commitment to fight slavery is, according to the report, “spread among an alarmingly large number of government departments and agencies” and a “partial and incoherent set of actions”. The measures adopted by the Mauritanian government fail to address many aspects that were highlighted by the Special Rapporteur, including the organisation of professional trainings to incorporate former slaves in legal jobs, programmes to restore the rights of children of slaves and the empowerment of female ex-slaves.

The credibility of Mauritania’s commitment to fight slavery and its consequences was further undermined by the arrest of anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA-Mauritania) and some of his companions, who despite international pressure were recently sentenced to two years imprisonment for taking part in a non-authorised protest and being part of a non-registered organization. 


To read the report written by the law students of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Workshop, entitled A Roadmap to Where? The Haratin and the Mauritanian Roadmap to Combat Slavery, please download the document attached.