Advocacy statements

Joint statement on the persistence of slavery

  • Date / 2013
  • 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

Center for Inquiry

Joint statement with IHEU and British Humanist Association

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 22nd Session (25 February to 22 March 2013) 

General Debate, item 2/3:  Report of the High Commissioner

Anti-discrimination legislation and the Persistence of Slavery

Mr President,

We were pleased that the High Commissioner made reference in her report to the assistance provided by her office to a number of states in drafting anti-discrimination laws and plans of action. But whilst such laws are desperately needed, they will do little to reduce the massive discrimination that still exists in many countries without the political will to implement them, and without education at all levels of society. We cite as among the most egregious examples of such discrimination the persistence of slavery in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. 

One of the states for which assistance was provided by the Office of the High Commissioner was  Mauritania where more than half a million black Africans are still held in slavery by their pale-skinned northern countrymen, and despite legislation introduced in 2007 banning slavery; legislation that is not only widely ignored but where anti-slavery campaigners are being harassed and arrested.

We have heard much in this Council of the legacy of the historical trans-Atlantic slave trade, yet those calling for compensation for the descendants of the victims of centuries-old slavery have chosen to totally ignore the plight of modern-day slaves. 

Mr President, this is an issue on which the Council must act. We note that a parallel event is being planned for 7th March that will deal specifically with the persistence of slavery in Mauritania. 

His Excellency the Mauritanian ambassador stated two years ago that, following the passage of the 2007 anti-slavery act, slavery no longer exists in Mauritania and we are dealing with a post-slavery situation. Perhaps the representatives of that country can explain, in the almost total absence of the political will to enforce those laws, how the slaves can tell the difference.

Thank you, Sir.

Suggested academic reference

'Joint statement on the persistence of slavery', Humanists International

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