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Urgent Interventions

Mauritania: 13-year-old girl undergoes forced labour and ill-treatment

MRT 250204.CC
Child Concern / Ill-treatment / Slavery

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Mauritania.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by reliable sources, including SOS-Esclaves, a member of the OMCT network, of the exploitation and the ill-treatment of a 13-year-old girl, Betoulé.

According to the information received, the girl had been separated from her parents as she was very young. She remembers neither the name of her mother, nor her nationality (Malian or Nigerian). Ever since she can remember, she was living in the house of Ms. Maimouna Mint Zaoui, who reportedly beat her and forced her to perform all the domestic work in her house. The householder did not remunerate her for this work and only provided her with very poor clothing. Further, Betoulé was not allowed to play with other kids and has received no education during her forced labour. On February 17th 2004, the young girl fled the house after being severely beaten (with a cup) on her eye by Ms. Maimouna Mint Zaoui for having dropped some milk on the carpet. She now wants to leave the family she is living with to join her biological parents.

On February 17th, she told Salma, a merchant she knows on the market, about the daily exploitation and ill-treatment she was suffering. Salma took her to her home at Dar Naïm, checked if Betoulé had not been reported missing at the police station Dar-Naïm II. The police listened to Salma and told her to take the care of the child while waiting for further information. However, Salma was told to bring Betoulé back to the station on Monday 23rd of February, and SOS-Esclaves later received the information that the police brought the girl back to Ms. Maimouna Mint Zaoui.

OMCT is seriously concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Betoulé, given that she was given back to the person who previously exploited and ill-treated her. OMCT welcomes the recent adoption of a law in Mauritania that prohibits trafficking in persons (law No 2003-025 of July 17th, 2003), but remains gravely concerned by the ongoing existence of slavery in Mauritania and calls upon the authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that it is abolished. OMCT also wants to recall that Mauritania, as a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which it ratified in 1990), has to fully respect its Art. 7, which states that children have "the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents (1)" Additionally, according to Art. 9, "States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will" and Art. 19 (1) underlines that "States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation (…) while in the care of legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child." Further, the child has the right "to be protected from performing any work that is likely (…) to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development" (Art. 32(1)). Finally, "States Parties shall take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form" (Art.35).

Actions requested

Please write to the authorities in Mauritania urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Betoulé;
ii. order an impartial investigation into the allegation of ill-treatment and exploitation of the young girl, in order to identify the responsibles, bring them to trial and apply penal sanctions as provided for by law;
iii. locate the whereabouts of Betoulé's parents and to undertake all the necessary efforts to guarantee her effective reintegration into her family and the community, as well as her education;
iv. guarantee adequate reparation to the girl and her family;
v. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout Mauritania in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


Mr. Mohamed Saleck Ould Mohamed Lemine, Ambassador, Permanent Mission to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, Avenue Blanc 46, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland; fax: 022 9061841; e-mail:

Maaouya Ould Sidi Mohammed Taya, President of the Republic, B.P. 184, Nouakchott, Mauritania

M. Kaba Ould Aléwa,Minister for the Interior, Post and Telecommunications, B.P. 195, Nouakchott, Mauritania, Fax :+ 222 525 36 61

M. Diabira Bakary, Minister of Justice, B.P. 350, Nouakchott, Mauritania, Fax: + 222 525 70 02

Please also write to the embassies of Mauritania in your respective country.

Geneva, February 25th, 2004.

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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