Mauritania: Rights Defender Denounces Slavery in Mauritania

28 November 2005
The Independent (Banjul)

Banjul — A local Mauritanian rights defender, Help The Slaves Group (HTSG) has denounced the practice of slavery in Mauritania.

The group called on international human rights groups to take an immediate action to end what it referred to as "an ugly practice," the website Islam reported. "An immediate action is urgently needed to look into the widespread slavery in the country," demanded Najdet Al-Abeed, a HTSG executive member. "In the absence of any immediate measure, Mauritanians will feel more desperate for any better future in their homeland."

The human rights group slammed Mauritanian authorities for its continuous silence over the practice. "Such an unacceptable behaviour has been accelerated by the silence of the incumbent government, similar to the stance of the toppled regime of Maouiya Ould Taya. Slavery was officially banned in Mauritania in 1981 but the practice has been widespread in the African country, despite government denials."

The latest victim of slavery in Mauritania was a 14-year-old girl who escaped her master's home to end her suffering. "I have been serving in my masters' home without getting paid for long years," the girl nicknamed Khadima told rights defenders. The girl came to her masters' home in the Mauritanian capital with the dream of joining the school.

"But I never went to school," she regretted. "Rather, I have been maltreated by my masters for the slightest mistake."

The relatives of the 14-year-old girl were also forced to serve in other masters' homes. "My niece has also been doing unpaid work at the home of her relatives. She has been raped by them and she is now pregnant," the girl was quoted saying.

Help The Slave Group also denounced widespread police and judiciary corruption in Mauritania. "Khadima was forced by policemen to change her count to hiding the truth from the whole world." The group, which enjoys an official recognition, further called on international reporters and human rights groups to come to Mauritania to have a hand-on experience on the primordial practice in the country.

In 2002, the issue of slavery made headlines after Amnesty International issued a report entitled "Mauritania: Future Without Slavery." The report levelled harsh criticism at the Mauritanian government and accused it of doing absolutely nothing to enforce a law abolishing slavery.

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