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<firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 In April 1994, Human Rights Watch/Africa published a report on Mauritania titled "Campaign of Terror: State Sponsored Repression of Black Africans". The central focus of the report was the events of 1989/91, in which large numbers of black Mauritanians were driven out of Mauritania into Senegal, and several hundred extrajudicially executed by the government. However, the issue of slavery was also considered, and the conclusion of the report was that, despite the official abolition of slavery in 1980: The institution of slavery continues today in Mauritania, especially in the countryside. Tens of thousands of blacks are considered the property of their masters and are subjected entirely to their masters' will. They work long hours for no remuneration. They are denied access to education and do not enjoy the freedom to marry or to associate freely with other blacks. They escape servitude, not by exercising their 'legal' rights, but mainly through escape. Ignorance of their rights, fear of recapture and the torture that often follows, and the lack of marketable skills in an impoverished country discourage a substantial number of slaves from trying to escape. Slavery is said to be particularly widespread in the eastern part of the country. I visited Mauritania myself in April of this year (to attend the 21st session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights), and the issue of slavery, together with the amnesty passed to cover the events of 1989/91, dominated discussion of the human rights situation in Mauritania itself. It has only recently been possible to form nongovernmental organisations in Mauritania (since a democratisation process began in 1991), but SOS Esclaves is an active campaigning body which challenges the official line that slavery is no longer practised. The government has also set up its own GONGOs (government-organised NGOs), including the Comite national de lutte pour l'eradication des sequelles de l'esclavage en mauritanie, which maintains that there are only present consequences of past slavery, but that slavery itself is history. The 22nd session of the African Commission has just taken place in Banjul, the Gambia. At the session, a representative of the Association of Mauritanian Refugees in Senegal made a statement on the continuing existence of slavery in Mauritania, reported on the front page of the independent Observer newspaper (whose Ghanaian editor had been deported the previous week, supposedly because his immigration papers were not in order); the same afternoon he was picked up by Gambian police and questioned for several hours about his statement and his own immigration status -- suggesting a worrying closeness between the Mauritanian and Gambian governments. He was released only after intervention with the Gambian government from international NGOs present at the Commission. While slavery may be particularly severe in Mauritania, as an institution it remains widespread across the Sahel region, as far as Sudan (where HRW has also reported on its existence), in varying forms. It would be interesting to hear from others on this list as to the prevalence of the institution and its severity in countries such as Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, etc.