Mauritania, pronounced mawr ih TAY nee uh, is a country in
western Africa. It stretches eastward from the Atlantic coast into the Sahara.
Arabic-speaking people called Moors make up most of the population. Black
Africans form a large minority group. About 99 percent of the people are
Mauritania failing to tackle pervasive slavery, says African Union
January 29, 2018
In landmark ruling, AU orders compensation for brothers born into
slavery and failed by legal system, criticising ‘culture of impunity’.
African Union has reprimanded Mauritania for failing to take action
against widespread slavery within its borders and ordered the
government to give financial compensation to two child slaves who were
failed by its legal system.
The landmark ruling is the first time the AU has spoken out against the
pervasive practice of hereditary slavery in Mauritania, which activists
believe affects many thousands of people.
Despite passing slavery laws in 2007, and amending them in 2015,
Mauritania has only prosecuted two cases of slavery. In 2011, after
sustained regional and international pressure, the Mauritanian courts
sentenced Ahmed Ould El Hassine to two years in jail and to pay 1.35m
Mauritanian ouguiya (£2,700) to two brothers, Said and Yarg Ould Salem,
who had been kept in slavery since birth.
After lawyers representing the brothers appealed to the African
Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC),
an AU body that was set up to protect child welfare across the region,
the committee criticised the leniency of the sentence and said the
Mauritanian government was creating a culture of impunity, allowing
slavery to continue unfettered across the region.
Under Mauritanian law the minimum sentence for slavery crimes is five
years. The convicted slave master is yet to be jailed, pending appeal,
and according to anti-slavery campaigners other members of his family
are yet to face prosecution.
In the ruling, the committee found the state to be in violation of its
obligations to protect children’s rights under the African Children’s
Charter, a legal framework that was set up to protect African children
from discrimination, child labour and harmful cultural practices.
Mauritania is now required to pay the two child victims financial
compensation and to provide them with psychosocial support and
The ACERWC ruling also demanded that Mauritania take wider actions to prevent child slavery across the region.
Despite the ruling having no enforcement mechanism, Anti-Slavery
International said the verdict puts a lot of pressure on Mauritania to
“This ruling will make it hard for the Mauritanian government to deny
that this remains a very serious problem that they need to address,”
said the organisation’s Jakub Sobik.
“Hopefully it will pave the way for some of the nearly 50 cases of
slavery stuck in the Mauritanian court system to progress. If the
Mauritanian government is unwilling to prosecute slavery of its own
volition, we will have to make it happen through international
Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1981
and passed anti-slavery laws in 2007, but these laws still haven’t been
implemented. In large parts of the country, slave status is still
passed down from mother to child.
US warned Mauritania’s ‘total failure’ on slavery should rule out trade benefits
US labour unions cite Mauritania’s unwillingness to act on slavery as
Trump administration is urged to deny country duty-free exports
August 25, 2017
The routine abuse of thousands of enslaved Mauritanians, including
rape, beatings and unpaid labour, should prevent the African republic
from receiving US trade benefits, American labour unions have said.
Mauritania, which has one of the highest rates of modern-day slavery in
the world and has been roundly criticised for its poor human rights
record, is currently on a list of countries that benefit from the
African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). The act, designed to promote
the economic development of countries that can show they uphold human
rights and meet labour standards, enables African countries to export
goods duty-free to US markets.
The US trade union AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Labor and
Congress of Industrial Organizations, this week called on the US trade
representative to remove Mauritania from the roster of approved
“The government of Mauritania routinely fails to conduct investigations
into cases of slavery, rarely pursues prosecutions for those
responsible for the practice and fails to ensure access to remedy or
otherwise support victims,” the union wrote in a petition, adding that
the state harasses and imprisons anti-slavery activists and will not
publicly acknowledge the continued existence of slavery.
“This represents a total failure to take any meaningful steps to establish freedom from forced labour,” said the petition.
abolished slavery in 1981, the last country in the world to do so, but
only made it a crime in 2007. Since then, campaigners say the
government has passed a handful of inefficient reforms and failed to
properly address the issue.
Although the union says it is unlikely the US will immediately remove
Mauritania from the Agoa list, Celeste Drake, trade and globalisation
policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, said the petition should “put
Mauritania on watch”.
The petition adds to the mounting pressure facing the Mauritanian
government. In June, the International Labor Organisation (ILO) warned
that slavery continues “on a widespread basis, despite numerous
discussions”. For the past three years, the country has been under
review by the ILO over its failure to act.
Last year, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human
rights concluded that Tadamoun, the agency set up to address the
consequences of slavery and poverty in Mauritania, had taken “a very
low profile” in tackling the problem.
Jeroen Beirnaert, human and trade union rights coordinator at the
International Trade Union Confederation, which has supported the
petition, said the government had done little to enforce its
anti-slavery law. Beirnaert said there had been only two known slavery
convictions, with the sentences handed out too lenient.
“It took decades to actually have a conviction let alone compensation
for any victims,” he said. “One issue we have with the agency
[Tadamoun] is that it doesn’t involve any of the former slaves. It’s
run by the white Moor community there, and it focuses a lot on a
poverty alleviation mandate and doesn’t really address the slavery
Sarah Mathewson, Africa programme manager at Anti-Slavery
International, said the Mauritanian government is sensitive to
criticism and that further bad publicity won’t be welcomed. “They do
seem to take initiatives and actions against slavery and forced labour
practices in response to [negative] publicity,” she said. “They’ll set
up a commission or a new government agency or introduce a new law or
Mathewson added that such initiatives are never serious attempts to
tackle the issue, but “window dressing” that distracts the
The government is balancing demands for reform with the need to retain
its grip on power, she said: “They also have to balance the pressures
of their own power base and the social and economic privileges that
slave ownership entails for them, and how intrinsically linked it is to
their own hold on power.”
Mauritania agrees to adopt roadmap to eradicate slavery
UN envoy on modern-day slavery says plan will include number of economic projects to help victims out of trade.
First Published: 2014-02-28
Middle East Online
NOUAKCHOTT - The United Nations envoy on modern-day slavery said on
Thursday Mauritania had agreed to adopt a roadmap for eradicating the
trade, which campaigners say remains widespread in the west African
country was the last in the world to abolish slavery, in 1981, and
since 2012 its practice has been officially designated a crime, but
campaigners say the government has failed in the past to acknowledge
the extent of the trade, with no official data available.
Shahinian, the UN's Special Rapporteur on contemporary slavery,
announced as she ended a four-day visit that Mauritania would adopt a
roadmap on March 6 which had been prepared with the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
said the plan was "an important step in eradicating slavery in the
country" and would include "a number of economic projects" to help
victims out of the trade.
added she was "satisfied with the action of the government, which has
taken important steps towards the eradication of slavery" since her
last visit in 2009.
labour is a particularly sensitive issue in Mauritania, where
anti-slavery charities are very active, especially SOS Slaves and the
Initiative for the Resurgence of the Struggle against Slavery (IRSS),
which supports victims in court.
told reporters she had obtained a commitment from the government to
appoint lawyers specifically trained to represent slaves in the courts,
however, rather than leaving the work to charities.
praised the "political will displayed by the authorities" in
introducing anti-slavery legislation but called for better enforcement
of the law.
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is in the process of setting up a special
tribunal to prosecute suspects accused of involvement in slavery and
various social security programmes have helped former slaves in the
But the beneficiaries were never recognised as such, with schemes officially targeting other disadvantaged groups.
In March last year Mauritania announced the launch of its first government agency charged explicitly with helping former slaves.
the train is certainly in motion, much needs to be improved, but as
long as the will is there, the rest will follow in time," Shahinian
envoy, a lawyer with extensive experience as an expert consultant on
children's rights, migration and trafficking, was appointed as the
first Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery in 2008.
Her findings and recommendations will be presented at a session of the UN Human Rights Council in September.
Mauritania bomber injures 3 near French Embassy
By AHMED MOHAMED (AP)
August 8, 2009
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — A suicide bomber killed himself outside the
French Embassy on Saturday night, wounding two embassy guards and a
woman in the street, police and witnesses said.
The man blew himself up around 7 p.m. (1900 GMT, 3 p.m. EDT), a
policeman at the scene said. He confirmed witness accounts that the
young man was dark-skinned and appeared young. He gave no other
details. The policeman did not give his name, saying he was not allowed
to talk to journalists.
Witnesses said the bomber's body was scattered in pieces on the street.
In France, the Foreign Ministry said it was informed of two people
slightly injured in the attack, a ministry official said. He did not
provide nationalities or say whether they were guards. There was no
damage to the embassy and the official said it was too early to say
whether it was the target of the attack.
The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and asked not to be identified.
Extremist violence in Mauritania, a moderate Muslim nation in West Africa, has increased in recent years.
Earlier this month, a judge charged three men with murder in the
slaying of an American teacher in Mauritania, and also charged them
with aiding al-Qaida, which had claimed responsibility for the murder.
Mauritania's new president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who was sworn in
three days before the bombing, said during his campaign that he would
crack down on al-Qaida. He was elected in July after agreeing to
elections after heading a coup in 2008.
The U.S. has expressed concern over the steady spread south from
Algeria in recent years of al-Qaida's North Africa branch. While
Washington never recognized Aziz's junta, it is keen to maintain
Mauritania as a bulwark against the terror group and prevent the
moderate Muslim nation from sliding toward extremism.
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Military junta overthrows Mauritania's president
Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya seized power in a 1984 coup.
By AHMED MOHAMED
The Associated Press
NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA – A military junta
overthrew Mauritania's U.S.-allied president Wednesday, prompting celebrations
in this oil-rich Islamic nation that has been looking to the West amid alleged
threats from al-Qaida- linked militants.
The junta promised to yield to democratic
rule within two years, but African leaders and the United States were quick to
condemn the coup, saying that the days of authoritarianism and military rule
must end across the continent.
President Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya, who
himself seized power in a 1984 coup and dealt ruthlessly with his opponents, was
out of the country when presidential guardsmen cut broadcasts from the national
radio and television stations and seized a building housing the army chief of
Later, the junta named the national police
chief, Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, 55, as the country's new leader.
Its statement identified Vall as
"president" of the military council that seized power.
Taya, who had allied his overwhelmingly
Muslim nation with the United States in the war on terrorism, refused comment
after arriving Wednesday in nearby Niger from Saudi Arabia, where he attended
King Fahd's funeral.
The State Department joined the African
Union in calling for the restoration of the government.
"We call for a peaceful return for order
under the constitution and the established government of President Taya," State
Department spokesman Tom Casey said in Washington.
The junta said it would exercise power for
up to two years to allow time to put in place "open and transparent" democratic
Oil recently was discovered in reserves
offshore, and Mauritania is expected to begin pumping crude for the first time
early next year.
Hundreds of people celebrated the coup in
the city center, saluting soldiers guarding the presidential palace, clapping
and singing anti-Taya slogans in Arabic.
"It's the end of a long period of
oppression and injustice," civil servant Fidi Kane said. "We are very delighted
with this change of regime."
State television and radio were back on air
by afternoon, with journalists reading the junta's statement repeatedly,
interspersed with Quranic readings - normal in the Islamic nation.
Taya had survived several coup attempts,
including one in 2003 that led to days of fighting in the capital.
After that, he jailed scores of members of
Muslim fundamentalist groups and the army accused of plotting to overthrow him.
His government also has accused opponents of training with al-Qaida-linked
insurgents in Algeria.
A June 4 border raid by al-Qaida-linked
insurgents sparked a gunbattle that killed 15 Mauritanian troops and nine
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