22nd session: Commissioner Ondziel-Gnelenga
23rd session: Commissioner Ondziel-Gnelenga
24th session: Commissioner Ondziel-Gnelenga
25th session: Commissioner Ondziel-Gnelenga
THE FACTS AS PRESENTED BY THE COMPLAINANT
1. SOS – Esclaves alleges that slavery remains a common practice in
Mauritania, regardless of its prohibition under the law. According to this
NGO, in a considerable number of cases, the Mauritanian government is
informed about these practices, and in some of those cases, it occasionally
supports the authors of those practices. SOS-Esclaves cites some concrete
examples in support of its allegations.
2. In its report of March 1996, SOS-Esclaves provides the following
illustrations: ten Mauritanian adults sold and bought as slaves (M’barka
mint Said, Temrazguint mint M’Barek, Nema mint Ramdane, Aïchana mint Abeid
Boïlil, Mbarka mint Meriéme, Zgheilina, Bakary, Abeid, Aïcha mint Soélim,
Kneïba); children from four families enslaved by the masters of their
parents (the daughter of M’barka mint Meriéme, the five children of Aïchana
mint abeid Boïlil, the daughter of Messaoud ould jiddou, and the two sons of
Fatma mint Mama); four other children sold as slaves (Baba ould Samba,
Houssein, Mohamed Ould Maoulould, Sidi ould Matallah); two Mauritanian women
married to their masters against their will (Aïchetou mint M’Boyrik and
Temrazguint mint M’Bareck); finally, six Maritanians and their families
dispossessed of their ancestral property by the masters of their parents,
following the death of the latter (Mohamed ould Bilal, Oum El Hella mint
Bilal, Bah ould Rabahl, Biram ould Abd Elbarka and M’Boyrik would Maouloud).
3. SOS – Esclaves requested the Mauritanian government to carry out
investigations into these acts and to take necessary measures for their
eradication. However, its request was never followed up.
4. The communication alleges violation of articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11
and 15 of the African Charter.
5. The communication is dated 11 April 1997 and was received by the
Commission meeting at its 21st Ordinary Session, which was seized of the
6. On 7 July 1997, a letter of notification was addressed to the Mauritanian
government informing it of the content of the communication and requesting
it to give its reaction.
7. On 7 July 1997, a letter was sent to the complainant acknowledging
receipt of the complaint.
8. At the 22nd ordinary session held from 2 – 11 November 1997, the
Commission decided to defer action on all communications submitted against
Mauritania until the 23rd session. This was due to the fact that it was
still awaiting the reaction of the government to the mission report that had
been given to it during the 21st session.
9. At the 23rd session, the Commission determined that some of the
information contained in the report submitted in conjunction with the
communication did not help it to establish conclusively whether internal
remedies had been exhausted. In particular, the Commission emphasised that
SOS – Esclaves should supply copies of all judicial decisions on all the
cases that it brings up in its report, and to point out those cases that
were still pending before Mauritanian jurisdictions. This would enable it to
decide on a firm basis of knowledge as the admissibility of the
10. On 25 April 1998, a copy of the communication and the letters requesting
additional information on internal procedure were given to the Mauritanian
representative at the 23rd session.
11. On 19 August 1998, correspondence was dispatched to the complainant
communicating the Commission’s position to it.
12. At its 24th ordinary session, the Commission deferred consideration of
the this communication to the following session.
13. On 12 November 1998, the Secretariat addressed letters to both parties
informing them of this decision.
14. In terms of the provisions of article 56, 5 of the African Charter on
Human and Peoples’ Rights, “communications [......] relating to Human and
Peoples’ Rights received by the Commission, shall be examined if they
[......] are sent after exhausting local remedies, if any, unless it is
obvious that this procedure is unduly prolonged.”
15. The facts alleged in the communication submitted by SOS – Esclaves are
very grave and from all appearances, contrary to the provisions of the
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in particular articles 2, 3
and 5. However, the complainant, having indicated that there are internal
procedures initiated by the supposed victims, does not say anything
regarding the status of those procedures. Hence, the Commission is unable to
determine whether the said procedures have been concluded or otherwise; nor
whether they have allowed the supposed victims to have their rights restored.
16. To enable it to reach an objective determination, the Commission
requested the complainant to supply the additional information it required.
Faced with the silence observed by the latter, it is unable to form a
precise opinion regarding the facts of which it has been seized. This would
seem to indicate that the internal remedies have not been exhausted; the
Commission is of the view that if they had been, the complainant would have
made it known.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COMMISSION
17. Declares the communication inadmissible due to non-exhaustion of
18. It however acknowledges that the complainant still enjoys the
opportunity to seize the Commission again once the conditions of article 56,
5 have been fulfilled.
Bujumbura, 5 May 1999.