Mauritania unchained: Modern slave owners face 20 years in prison

Shadaan Hammam

Published: Updated:

Not all slaves have been freed. In Mauritania, slavery is a reprehensible practice which still exists.

A private court in Nouadhibou, Mauritania’s second largest city, recently sentenced three slave owners up to 10 and 20 years in prison.

El Eid Ould Mubarak, is a lawyer and human rights activist working on the case. “This is the first time there is a Mauritanian committee in place implementing the law against slavery: the verdict is valid, and is in line with the legal atmosphere which is in favor of eradicating slavery.”, says Ould Mubarak.

A man named Salik Ould Omar is one of the convicted slave owners, but died before the verdict. His 20-year-old son however, will be facing prison time. The defendants are accused of enslaving an entire family, two of whom are children.

The third suspect is a woman named Rabeea Bint Hamaadi who was charged to 10 years in prison for reducing three sisters to slavery. Hamaadi does not have children, but claims to treat one of the sisters as her own. The defendant further explained how she met all her needs, and therefore felt exonerated from having to pay her. Hamaadi’s plea was immediately rejected by the attorney general who believes that “there is no such thing as compassionate or cruel slavery, slavery is a crime”.

Mauritania became the last country to abolish slavery in 1981. An amnesty report reveals that 43 thousand people, around 1% of the population, are still enslaved. Today, based on a law adopted in 2015, slavery in Mauritania is an official crime against humanity.

Despite the current reprimanding nature against slavery in Mauritania, rights groups claim that the country has arrested more anti-slavery activists than it did slave owners.