Feb 29, 2016

Mauritania Fails to Implement Roadmap to Combat the Vestiges of Slavery

On 26 February 2016, the Society for Threatened Peoples, in cooperation with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Anti-Slavery International, IRA-Mauritania, SOS-Esclaves, and Kawtal Ngamyellitaare, published a report entitled “Slavery in Mauritania: The Roadmap to combat the vestiges of slavery is not being implemented convincingly” [« Esclavage en Mauritanie : l’échec de l’application de la feuille de route pour la lutte contre les séquelles de l’esclavage »]. The 49-page report examines to what extent the Roadmap to Combat the Vestiges of Slavery has actually been implemented since its adoption by the Mauritanian government in March 2014.

According to the report, the roadmap has largely been left to gather dust. Due to an apparent lack of political will to end slavery, projects envisioned in the roadmap are either not implemented at all or implemented half-heartedly. For instance, former slaves still face discrimination and injustices in all walks of life, and there is generally no state-prosecution of slaveholders. The report  highlights that for the implementation to be sincere, it would need external, possibly NGO-based execution and evaluation of the roadmap.

Below is a press release published by the Society for Threatened Peoples:

Two years after the adoption of the “Roadmap to Combat the Vestiges of Slavery” published by the Mauritanian government and a few days before the Mauritanian human rights record is examined critically in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, this Roadmap is scrutinized in the 49-page report “Slavery in Mauritania: The Roadmap to combat the vestiges of slavery is not being implemented convincingly”. Published by the Society for Threatened Peoples, it examines the extent to which the proposed projects were actually implemented.

The report is published in partnership with Anti-Slavery International; Kawtal Ngamyellitaare; IRA-Mauritanie; SOS-Esclaves and Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. It shows the lack of political will in order to implement the Roadmap.

The Roadmap provides for many reasonable initiatives to combat the consequences of slavery, but most of the projects were not implemented – or not convincingly.  The former slaves are not only complaining about impunity, but also about a lack of social, economic, and education-related support from the authorities – despite the founding of the agency TADAMOUN which is supposed to provide help for former slaves and to further their integration into society. Moreover, nine years after Mauritania introduced penal provisions for slavery, there are still enormous problems regarding the prosecution of slaveholders.

“Until people will be victims of slavery in Mauritania and until descendants of slaves will continue to suffer discrimination and injustice in this country, SOS-Esclaves will continue its fight” says Boubacar Messaoud, the president from SOS-Esclaves.

“The international community is called for more vigilance with Mauritanian authorities who continue the policy of slavery denial instead of fulfilling its commitments. If Mauritania accepts the Roadmap in order to eradicate slavery, Mauritania should accept that independents NGO will be involved in its execution and evaluation. For now, there is no reliable and independent mechanism for this” declares Abidine Ould Merzough from IRA-Mauritanie.

"Despite slavery being de jure a crime in Mauritania, this has had little practical implications for those trapped in subjugation for generations or for their masters. The lack of implementation of the Roadmap clearly points to the absence of political and judicial will to address the problem of slavery which is exacerbated by the Mauritanian Government’s denial of its very existence" announces Johanna Green from UNPO.

“It is simply not sufficient for the government to publish new anti-slavery plans and laws if no efforts are made to ensure that these are implemented properly. Despite a number of initiatives, nothing has changed in reality for victims of slavery. For those who manage to escape slavery, it remains a struggle to get their masters arrested, much less prosecuted, and they are left to face extreme destitution and vulnerability. The government must do far, far more to put this Roadmap into practice” relates Sarah Mathewson from Anti-Slavery International.

For an English summary of the report, click here

For the full report in French, click here.


For further reading, see also the report A Roadmap to Where? The Haratin and the Mauritanian Roadmap to Combat Slavery, written by law students of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Workshop.