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Mauritania: Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery

Mrs Gulnara Shahinian, conducted an official mission to Mauritania from 24 October to 4 November 2009. The main objective of the mission was to look at the effectiveness of the Mauritanian policies, laws and specific programmes to combat slavery.

News | 20 September 2010
Slavery in Mauritania was abolished in 1980 and criminalized in 2007. Despite laws, programmes and difference of opinion with regard to the existence of slavery in Mauritania, the Special Rapporteur concluded that de facto slavery continues to exist in Mauritania. The mission also explored the extent to which factors like discrimination, poverty, culture, religion, education and employment policies hinder or contribute to the end of slavery.
The absence of alternative livelihoods and protection from high levels of illiteracy, limited information, combined with the separation of families, and methods of control used by masters that include the use of religion have resulted in a deep–rooted acceptance of their inherited slavery status. In addition, there is resistance from masters to change this way of life. Consequently, de facto slavery in Mauritania continues to be a slow, invisible process which results in the “social death” of many thousands of women and men.

Based on her findings, the Special Rapporteur made, among others, the following recommendations: that the 2007 Slavery Act be amended to contain a clearer definition of slavery to aid judicial enforcement, provide for victim assistance and socio–economic programmes to aid victims’ reintegration into society. The Special Rapporteur further recommends that the Government of Mauritania develop a comprehensive and holistic national strategy to combat slavery.