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Mauritania creates new courts to try slavery cases

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gavelMauritania has ordered the creation of special courts to try slavery cases, the official AMI news agency said Friday, months after a new law was passed to crack down on a practice that is deeply rooted in the west African nation.

A cabinet meeting late Thursday approved a decree to set up three courts “specialised in the fight against slavery,” AMI said.

“These anachronistic practices of slavery are no longer tolerated, neither now or in the future,” Justice Minister Brahim Ould Daddah said, quoted by AMI.

Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery, in 1981, and since 2007 its practice has been officially designated a crime.

Parliament in August passed a new law that declared it a “crime against humanity”, criminalised a raft of new forms of slavery such as forced marriage, and doubled maximum prison terms to 20 years.

Slavery is deeply entrenched in the vast, largely desert nation where light-skinned Berber Arab Moors enslaved local black populations after settling in Mauritania centuries ago.

Slave status is also often passed on from generation to generation, said the Australia-based Walk Free Movement which estimated in its 2014 Global Slavery Index that there were 156,000 slaves in Mauritania, or some four percent of the population.

Ould Daddah however declared “traditional slavery no longer exists in the country” and called on Mauritanians to report any remaining cases, AMI said Friday.

Just one week after the new law was passed in August, a Mauritanian court upheld a two-year prison sentence against three anti-slavery activists who were arrested during a protest against the practice.

AMI said the new anti-slavery courts would be set up in the capital Nouakchott, Nema in the southeast and Nouadhibou in the northwest.


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