Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Mauritania
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||4 June 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Mauritania, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a2bc.html [accessed 21 December 2014]|
MAURITANIA (Tier 2)
Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Slavery-related practices, rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships, continue to exist in isolated parts of the country. Mauritanian boys called talibe are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging. Children are also trafficked by street gang leaders within the country who force them to steal, beg, and sell drugs. Girls are trafficked internally for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Mauritanian children may also be trafficked for forced agricultural and construction labor, herding, and for forced labor in the fishing industry within the country. Boys from Mali and Senegal are trafficked to Mauritania for forced begging by religious teachers. Senegalese and Malian girls are trafficked to Mauritania for domestic servitude. Senegalese, Malian, Ghanaian, and Nigerian women and girls may be trafficked to Mauritania for sexual exploitation. Reports indicate that while some slaves are forced by masters into servitude, others remain with masters because they lack land and other means to live freely.
The Government of Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, despite limited resources. While the Mauritanian government took the significant step of enacting new anti-slavery legislation, government efforts to enforce the law against trafficking were limited. Government victim protection and awareness-raising initiatives also need to be strengthened and expanded.
Recommendations for Mauritania: Increase efforts to prosecute trafficking and slavery offenses; revise the 2007 anti-slavery law to facilitate the filing of complaints by slaves, such as by permitting NGOs or other advocates to file written complaints on their behalf; increase efforts to train police to identify trafficking victims among females in prostitution and children in conflict with the law; place greater emphasis on investigating and combating sex trafficking, particularly that involving children; and educate local government officials about the importance of enforcing laws prohibiting slavery and trafficking.
The Government of Mauritania demonstrated increased law enforcement efforts during the year by passing new anti-slavery legislation. Mauritania prohibits all forms of trafficking through its 2003 Law Against Trafficking in Persons, which prescribes penalties of five to 10 years' imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and exceed those prescribed for rape. In August 2007, Mauritania's National Assembly unanimously adopted a law criminalizing slavery which entered into force in February 2008. This law defines slavery and prescribes an adequate penalty of five to 10 years' imprisonment. It supplements a 1981 anti-slavery ordinance that failed to prescribe penalties or define slavery and it repeals a provision in the ordinance compensating slave owners for the liberation of their slaves. In 2007, the government pledged $7.5 million to combat slavery, a portion of which is allocated to enforcing the new anti-slavery law. However, NGOs report that since the passage of the new law, local officials with knowledge of slavery cases have failed to enforce it. Moreover, the new legislation requires that a slave file a legal complaint before a prosecution may be pursued, and does not permit such complaints to be filed on behalf of slaves by NGOs or other advocates. Because many slaves are illiterate and unable to complete the paperwork to file a legal complaint, such provisions, which apply to civil actions as well, severely handicap the law's effectiveness. During the year, the government reported that one individual enslaving a female child was prosecuted under child protection laws prior to the passage of the new slavery law. The case was eventually settled out of court, however, and did not result in a conviction. The government failed to report any other trafficking or slavery convictions. The government established special courts to try trafficking cases and a police brigade dedicated to investigating crimes against children, especially trafficking. In December 2007, the Ministry of Justice held two UNDP-funded seminars for approximately 30 judges to discuss the new law and to inform judges of their responsibilities in its implementation. The government contributed to some of the costs of the conferences.
The Government of Mauritania demonstrated modest efforts to protect trafficking and slavery victims. In December 2007, the Prime Minister announced that the government would make available $7.5 million in the 2008 budget to combat slavery, part of which would be used to assist former slaves to reintegrate into society. These funds will help provide shelter, food, limited medical care, and job training. The government continued to fund jointly with UNICEF six centers in Nouakchott providing care to indigent children, many of whom were talibe. These centers, which provide basic medical and nutritional care, continued to operate below capacity despite apparent need. The government continued to provide personnel and a building to a collaborative effort with UNICEF and a private bank to provide micro credit programs to vulnerable populations, including some former slaves. The government does not encourage victims to assist in trafficking investigations or prosecutions. Mauritania does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. Victims are inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked. The government places children in jail for stealing or engaging in commercial sexual activity, while many of them are likely trafficking victims who have been forced into these activities.
The Government of Mauritania made sustained efforts to raise awareness of trafficking during the last year. The government held three days of national consultations against slavery. In February 2008, in cooperation with NGOs, Mauritania conducted and funded a nationwide public awareness campaign about trafficking and slavery with a focus on educating former slaves about their rights under the new law. As part of this campaign, the government sent delegations to each region of Mauritania to explain the new law and encourage people to denounce the practice of slavery. The delegations consisted of a Minister, a Ministry of Justice representative, a Human Rights Commission representative, one religious authority, and a representative from Mauritania's leading anti-slavery NGO. The delegations met with local officials and held regional and district public meetings to educate people about the new law. Several thousand people attended these meetings nationwide. After years of denying ILO representatives entrance into the country or access to information on labor practices, Mauritanian officials met with ILO representatives in May 2007, and agreed to collaborate on a national study on forced labor and the vestiges of slavery. During his 2007 election campaign, Mauritania's recently elected President pledged publicly to end slavery. The government has not taken steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts.