MRG dismayed by recent court decisions concerning slavery in Mauritania

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Mauritania: Acceptance of slavery case by African child rights body is a ‘ray of hope,’ say anti-slavery organisations

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) regrets the decisions of the Special Court in Néma, Mauritania in the cases of Lala Aicha Mint Mohamed and Mabrouka Mint Mohamed, handed down on 26 November 2018. The court acquitted the accused in the case of Lala Aicha and postponed the case of Mabrouka to a later stage for a procedural technicality.

‘The joint decision of the Special Court in Néma represents a step backwards for Mauritania in the meaningful prosecution of slave masters and a setback in the eradication of entrenched slavery in the country, says Jennifer Castello, MRG’s Legal Officer. ‘These decisions stand in contrast to several recent and promising victories in the specialised anti-slavery courts in which slave-owners were convicted.’

These joint cases concerned young women held in slavery: in the case of Lala Aicha Mint Mohamed, the 9-year old had been forcibly abducted from her grandmother’s house in Bassikounou with a view to enslaving her. In the case of Mabrouka Mint Mohamed, the 22-year old had been living in slavery in the Bassikounou area since the age of 4.

These decisions go against recent national and regional jurisprudence regarding slavery in Mauritania and constitutes a setback from decisions such as Rabiaa and sisters v Mauritania decided in March 2018, whereby slave-owners were for the first time starting to be held to account under the 2015 Anti-Slavery Law. This week’s decisions are especially disappointing in light of the 2017 decisions of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), holding that Mauritania was obliged to impose stricter sentences in accordance with the 2015 Anti-Slavery Law, as well as to change national practices and programmes to eradicate slavery and related practices effectively.

These cases represented an opportunity to continue the promising trend of holding slave-owners to account and to act upon implementing these obligations, but the Special Court of Néma’s decisions demonstrated the ongoing impunity for slave-owners. In this way, slavery along with a significant disregard for the fundamental rights of minorities continue in Mauritania.

Notes to editors

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