Mauritania reviewed by the UPR: Slavery and the rights of women of serious concern
Thursday, 18 November 2010 12:51


Mauritania was reviewed by the Working Group on the UPR on 10 November 2010. The delegation was headed by Mohamed Abdallahi Ould Khattra, Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Relations with Civil Society in the Mauritanian Government. In his introductory statement, Mr Abdallahi Ould Khattra pointed out that this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Islamic country's independence.



He took the opportunity to reiterate information contained in the report, including that the country adheres to the principles of equality and non-discrimination which are enshrined in its national laws. In demonstration of the country's commitment to human rights, he highlighted the treaties it is party to, the relevant reports it has submitted to treaty bodies and visit requests from special procedures that it has accepted. He acknowledged some of the human rights shortcomings in the country, such as the prevalence of slavery and the Government's ongoing struggle against corruption. However, he insisted the country's national institutions[1] initiate transparent investigations and that high courts have the jurisdiction to try government officials. He furthermore attributed the country's human rights challenges to it being a developing country.


In response to questions about its reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the head of delegation attributed these to the application of Shariah law in the country, but emphasised that the Government was taking steps to withdraw its general reservations and replace them with more specific ones. On the issues of domestic violence and harmful traditional practices, he referred to deeply entrenched attitudes as an impediment to progress but added that criminalisation and preventative measures against certain practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), were underway.


During the interactive dialogue, a number of States used their statements to highlight Mauritania's human rights developments.[2] They commended the country for being party to many international human rights instruments, for establishing a National Human Rights Commission (an institution accorded B-status by the International Coordinating Committee for National Human Rights Institutions), for the achievement of high primary school attendance rates, and for its efforts to criminalise slavery[3], combat poverty and promote women's rights. These States also acknowledged the challenges and constraints faced by the country.[4]


More critical States highlighted grave shortcomings, notably the persistence of violence against women and gender-based discrimination, including the widespread practices of early marriage, FGM and force-feeding (gavage)[5] and the lack of a definition of discrimination against women in its national legislation. They[6] expressed concern about the persistence of slavery, which constitutes discrimination based on descent, and noted the ineffectiveness of the anti-slavery legislation, which does not address some slavery-like practices, and under-which no one has yet been convicted of the crime of slave-holding.[7] In this regard, they urged Mauritania to take a more holistic approach to combating slavery. Other grave concerns raised by States related to the persistent use of torture by law enforcement personnel, poor conditions in detention facilities, the corporal punishment of children, and the prevalence of human trafficking in Mauritania for forced labour and sexual exploitation. These States also noted that the National Human Rights Commission receives insufficient financial support to carry out its mandate.


Most frequently made recommendations included:

  • Withdraw reservations to CEDAW and combat all forms of violence against women, including FGM, early marriage, and force-feeding
  • Develop a national strategy on combating traditional and modern forms of slavery
  • Further strengthen the National Human Rights Commission and the capacity of other relevant programmes and policies to secure the advancement of human rights
  • End torture and ill-treatment and ensure effective investigations and prosecutions of those responsible in line with international standards
  • Intensify programmes to eradicate poverty

Mauritania accepted 88 out of 123 recommendations made, the overwhelming majority of which relate to the above mentioned issues. It refrained from taking a position on some key recommendations, notably the abolition of the death penalty, the prohibition of torture in its penal legislation, the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture and removal of its reservations to CEDAW and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These recommendations will be examined and answers provided at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2011. The head of Mauritania's delegation concluded by reiterating the State's commitment to combating slavery and meeting its human rights obligations in the sphere of human rights.


[1] Commission on Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Relations with Civil Society (CDHAHRSC); Ministry of Social Affairs, Children and the Family; Ombudsman of the Republic; National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH). The establishment of the CNDH is perceived by States to be a promising development for human rights in Mauritania, however, since it includes members of the government, it is not seen to be fully independent.

[2] Senegal; Qatar; Oman; Saudi Arabia; Bahrain; Palestine; Tunisia; Iraq; Malaysia; Bangladesh; Morocco; Egypt; Chad; United Arab Emirates; Sri Lanka; China; Indonesia; Angola; Syria

[3] Act of 3 September 2007

[4] Bangladesh; Bahrain; Pakistan

[5] Brazil; Poland; Canada; Israel; USA; France; UK; Spain; Norway; Germany

[6] Canada; Chad; Israel; USA; UK; Turkey; Spain; Norway; Germany; Switzerland

[7] USA

Last Updated on Monday, 22 November 2010 16:41
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