Mauritanian Government Lambasted at UNHC for Slavery

The Mauritanian government was rebuked at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for its failure to abolish entirely slavery practices, which remain widespread in the West African country.

A heated exchange took place between the Mauritanian government and independent national and international NGO’s calling for abolishing the abhorrent slavery practice in Mauritania as part of efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

The participating NGOs include Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), represented by its leader Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, the National Forum for Human Rights Organizations (FONADH) and Associations representing Mauritania’s black population in Europe, led by Dicko Hanoune.

These organizations tightened the noose on Mauritania’s human rights representative by asking questions relating to the shameful persistence of slavery and discrimination against Haratines, the under-privileged black population as well as civil society freedoms.

The Mauritanian delegation asked for a 12-hour pause to prepare answers to the enquiries filed by the NGOs.

Last March, IRA leader Ould Abeid was arrested and interrogated by authorities following three days of demonstrations for equal rights.

Mauritanian authorities have by the past tried to silence the IRA abolitionist movement, which is gaining ground among the Haratines in the West African country.

In a report issued in February 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deplored that anti-slavery groups endure police repression in Mauritania.

Mauritania outlawed slavery only in 1981, criminalized the practice in 2007, and created specialized courts in 2015 to prosecute slavery cases. Authorities claim success in eradicating slavery and say that today the challenge is to address the lasting socioeconomic effects, or “legacy” of slavery.

The Human Rights Watch report noted that both Mauritania’s main anti-slavery non-governmental associations, and IRA challenge the official discourse by affirming that slavery continues to be practiced, though differ in their approaches.

Cited by the report, IRA’s President Biram Bah Abeid maintains that slavery, far from being eradicated, affects 20 percent of Mauritania’s population; he also denounces the under representation of Haratines and other blacks in senior government positions.

Last January, the African Union rebuked Mauritania for falling short of fully eliminating slavery after the country handed out lenient sentences to a slave owner.

IRA is the largest anti-slavery organization in Mauritania, with members throughout the country who regularly mobilize to protest slavery and state-endorsed discrimination based on race, caste and gender.

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