UN Reports on Slavery and Human Rights Violations in Mauritania
On 9 and 10 May 2018, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) of the United Nations (UN) has submitted its final observations following the eighth to 14th periodic reports submitted by Mauritania, as well as written questions from UNPO member the Initiative for the Resurgence of Abolitionism in Mauritania (Initiative de Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste en Mauritanie or IRA).
Despite a long-awaited submission – the document comes nine years late -, the CERD applauds the reopening of dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. However it also formulates strong concerns and recommendations on a variety of issues including slavery, discrimination against the Haratin minority and human rights associations.
In its report, the CERD underlines that Mauritania does not abide by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which it has signed in 1966 and ratified in 1988. In January 2018, the country adopted a law aiming to incriminate discrimination but the CERD is concerned by the fact that there is yet to be a clear legal definition of discrimination, as today the concept can easily be misinterpreted.
The CERD also expresses concerns on the treatment of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and human rights associations working in Mauritania. It is reported that these organisations not only face administrative obstacles but that their members are the subjects of intimidation, harassment and even arbitrary detention.
Regarding the persistence of slavery, the Committee recommends that the State provide clear data on the issue, as well as put in practice its 2015 law criminalising slavery. The CERD also recommends that Mauritania make sure the victims of slavery are able to file complaints and that the perpetrators are brought to justice and convicted accordingly.
The CERD also acknowledges discrimination towards the Haratin people, including in terms of access to education, employment, housing, health and social services. The Committee expresses its preoccupation regarding the absence of indigenous peoples of Mauritania from political affairs as well as public services and decision-making entities more generally. The CERD calls for a better representation of the Haratin and legal dispositions to be implemented to eradicate discrimination against them.
The UNPO and the IRA congratulate the work of UN experts on the situation in Mauritania and hope that the many recommendations they formulated will lead the country’s authorities to abide by the conventions the State has signed and ratified. Both organisations also hope that this successful achievement will open the way toward the respect of human rights and the abolishment of slavery in Mauritania.