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Mauritania; United Nations: Plan to End Slavery Expected

(Mar. 11, 2014) Gulnara Shahinian, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary slavery, announced that on February 27, 2014, Mauritania agreed to adopt a roadmap to end slavery. (UN Expert Urges Mauritania to Take More Vigorous Efforts to Eliminate Slavery, UN NEWS CENTRE (Feb. 27, 2014).) The roadmap, due to be adopted on March 6, was prepared with assistance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Shahinian called it “an important step in eradicating slavery in the country” and noted that it would have provisions for attorneys to help slave trade victims in court cases and a number of economic projects designed to help them financially. (Id.) In addition, there will be a Special Tribunal to prosecute crimes connected with slavery, which is designed to take Mauritania closer to actually eliminating slavery. (Id.)

Shahinian praised several legislative efforts that had been made in Mauritania in 2011 to ensure the rights of domestic workers, an important part of the effort to end slavery, but pointed out that “concerted action is required to fully realize their human rights.” (Id.)

Mauritania was the last nation to abolish slavery, which it did officially in 1981. The prohibition of slavery was incorporated into article 13 of the Constitution in 2012. (Mauritania to Adopt Roadmap to End Slavery, NEWS 24 (Feb. 28, 2014); UN Expert Urges Mauritania to Take More Vigorous Efforts to Eliminate Slavery, supra; Comparative Constitution Project, Mauritania’s Constitution of 1991 with Amendments Through 2012, CONSTITUTE PROJECT.)

Despite the 1981 decree on abolition of slavery and the punishment of up to ten years of imprisonment for the crime of slavery established in 2007 , slavery has remained a problem in the country (Ordonnance no. 81-234 du 9 novembre 1981 portant abolition de l’esclavage [Ordinance no. 81-234, of Nov.9, 1981, on the Abolition of Slavery] JOURNAL OFFICIEL 496 (Nov. 25, 1981); Loi du 3 septembre 2007 portant incrimination de l’esclavage et des pratiques esclavagistes [Law of September 3, 2007, on Criminalizing Slavery and Slavery Practices], JOURNAL OFFICIEL 1262-1264 (Oct. 30, 2007)). (For background on the situation in Mauritania, see Pascale Harter, Slavery: Mauritania’s Best Kept Secret, BBC NEWS (Dec. 13, 2004); Slavery in Mauritania, ANTI-SLAVERY [website of the advocacy group Anti-Slavery International] (last visited Mar. 3, 2014); Constance A. Johnson, Mauritania: Court Sentences Anti-Slavery Activist, Acquits Others, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Sept. 1, 2011).)