Advocacy statements

Blasphemy and apostasy laws perpetuating slavery in Mauritania

  • Date / 2023
  • Location / Mauritania
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights


Humanists International

54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (11 September to 13 October 2023)

Item 3: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery

Speaker: Cheick Mkhaitir


Mr President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report on his visit to Mauritania.

His report notes that, “religion continues to be instrumentalized to uphold slavery.”[1]  I myself was arrested after publishing a piece criticizing the use of religion to legitimize the caste system and slavery in Mauritania. I was imprisoned for almost six years, for the crime of apostasy.

Repressive religious laws such as apostasy and blasphemy laws are a significant hindrance to dismantling slavery in Mauritania. They allow a system which protects the misuse of religion over the dignity of the individual, and which censors criticism of practices justified on religious grounds.

Along with other laws containing imprecise and overbroad provisions on expression in Mauritania,[2]  blasphemy and apostasy charges have been consistently weaponized to silence and criminalize human rights defenders who denounce ongoing slavery and discriminatory practices, with many imprisoned over the years.[3]

The repeal of blasphemy and apostasy laws is an essential step in the eradication of slavery practices in Mauritania. The culture supporting slavery practices can only be changed when those who denounce slavery and the instrumentalization of religion where it occurs, are free to do so – without threat of arbitrary arrest, or charges of blasphemy or apostasy. We would welcome any reflections the Rapporteur has on this.

Thank you.


[1] A/HRC/54/30/Add.2 Para 56, see also: para 57 & 78

[2] For example, the cybercriminality laws and 2018 ‘anti-discrimination’ law.

[3] https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr38/7812/2018/en/

Suggested academic reference

'Blasphemy and apostasy laws perpetuating slavery in Mauritania', Humanists International

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