Pursuant to Article 44 of the African Children’s Charter, a communication/complaint was lodged before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on 15 December 2015. The Communication was submitted by Minority Rights Group International and SOS-Esclaves. The communication is concerning two brothers who, according to the complainants, have been held as slaves to the to the El Hassine family in Mauritania. The two boys were required to look the family’s herd of camels, spending the majority of their time out in the bush with the animals, sleeping and eating in a make-shift camp; they were also forced to undertake domestic chores including cooking, cleaning, washing closes and buying goods from the market. The two boys worked seven days a week without pay, with no time off (even on Fridays), no time to play; instead they regularly faced corporal punishments. They are not called by their given names in the El Hassine family rather they are called ‘slaves’. The children are allowed to eat only leftovers. Furthermore, unlike the other children in the family, the two boys did not attend school nor did they learn the Quran.
The Complainants submitted that though Ahmed Ould El Hassine was found guilty of holding the two brothers in slavery and depriving them of schooling, he was sentenced only to two years of imprisonment while his sister was acquitted of the same charges. The complainants further alleged that the other four El Hassine brothers were convicted and each received 2 year suspended while the boys’ mother received a two years suspended sentence. Unsatisfied with the effort that the Government employed in trying to avert the situation, the Complainants submitted that the Republic of Mauritania is in violation of Articles 1 (Obligation of State Parties), 3 (Non-Discrimination), 4 (Best Interests of the Child), 5 (Survival and Development), 11(Education), 12 (Leisure, Recreation, and Cultural Activities), 15 (Protection from Economic Exploitation), 16 (Protection Against Harmful Social and Cultural Practices) and 29 (Prevention of Sale, Trafficking and Abduction of Children) of African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
After thoroughly deliberating on the matter, hearing both sides and investigating on the ground, the African Committee finds the Respondent State in violation of its obligations under article 1 (obligation of states parties), article 3 (non-discrimination), article 4 (best interests of the child), article 5(survival and development), article 11 (education) article 12 (leisure, recreation and cultural activities), article 15 (child labour), article 16 (protection against child abuse and torture) and article 21 (protection against harmful social and cultural practices).
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child therefore recommended for the Government of Mauritania to ensure that all members of the El Hassin family are prosecuted for the enslavement of Said and Yarg and the violation of their rights to equality, survival and development, education, leisure, recreation and cultural activities, protection against child abuse and torture, and protection against child labor, and ensure that they receive sentences commensurate to the crimes committed pursuant to the laws of Mauritania. The Committee also recommended for Mauritania to give due regard to the issue of slavery or slavery like practices and make the elimination of the same one of its priorities in issuing polices, allocating budget, and training human resources; an take special measures to takeout children from slavery and slavery like practices and ensure that all children in such situations receive psychosocial, educational, as well as all forms of support needed to ascertain that they enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Charter.
Read the full Decision here: