Slavery persists in Mauritania despite a legal crackdown on the centuries-old practice, an UN investigator said after a 10-day tour.
A 2007 law criminalising slavery in the West African desert state is not being properly enforced and victims are not encouraged to come forward, UN rapporteur Gulnara Shahinian told a news conference.
“There are all forms of slavery in Mauritania. There is child labour, domestic labour, child marriages and human trafficking,” Shahinian said.
“Legislation is simply a statement on paper if it is not enforced,” she added, urging authorities to bolster the legislation with specific laws relating to labour practices, citizenship and immigration.
Local human rights groups estimate that 18 % of Mauritania’s population of about 3 million still live in slavery that has historical roots in the ownership by a ruling Arab-Berber elite of the indigenous black population.
Boubacar Messaoud of Mauritania’s main anti-slavery lobby SOS Esclaves welcomed the UN findings.
“The fact that she acknowledges these realities is a satisfaction for us. It will help us convince the government to fight on this issue,” he said.