Mauritania needs to do much more to eliminate slave-like practices, the United Nations human rights chief said today as she also called on the West African country to take steps to improve the role of women and set up mechanisms to tackle human rights violations by previous regimes.
Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, today wrapped up a two-day visit to Mauritania in which she met with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, other top Government officials, lawmakers, human rights workers, diplomats, UN staff and civil society groups.
Slavery, women’s rights, access to justice, transitional justice and Mauritania’s international legal obligations topped the agenda of the talks, according to a press release issued by Ms. Pillay’s office in Geneva.
During her visit, the High Commissioner toured a prison on the outskirts of the capital, Nouakchott, and noted its overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. She also visited the National Programme for the Eradication of the Vestiges of Slavery.
Mauritania’s steps so far to eliminate slavery are welcome, she said, emphasizing the need for a strict implementation of a 2007 anti-slavery law.
“Much more needs to be done to eradicate the perpetuation of slave-like practices,” Ms. Pillay said. “There is a need to integrate all victims in the chain of economic activities in the country, and to develop an awareness programme targeting the general public.”
Mauritania’s Government “would be well advised to prepare a plan of action to implement the recommendations made by various international human rights mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences [Gulnara Shahinian].”
The role of women in Mauritanian society must also be enhanced, Ms. Pillay said, calling for their greater representation in the judiciary and in broader decision-making processes in society.
Ms. Pillay called on the Government to release women rape victims who have been imprisoned, saying this is a grave violation of their human rights.
She also stressed the need to establish transitional justice mechanisms to tackle human rights violations that occurred under previous regimes between 1980 and 1989.
While in Mauritania Ms. Pillay opened the seventh annual meeting of Arab national human rights institutions, which was held in Nouakchott.