Urgent Interventions

Mauritania: forced disappearance and risk to the personal integrity of Mr. Matalla, an escaped slave

Case MRT 090204
Forced disappearance / Risk to personal integrity / 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 SOS
Slaves, a member of the OMCT network, of the forced disappearance and
risk to the personal integrity of Mr. Matalla, an escaped slave, in
the city of Zouérate, Mauritania.

According to the information received, a man named Matalla, age 20,
who had fled from slavery having received death threats, was taken
into custody by the military on January 18th, 2004. On orders from
the local governor, the military placed Matalla in the custody of the
local police on January 20th, 2004: he was handed over to the brigade
commander at Bir Mogreon. Our sources have expressed grave concerns
for his physical and psychological integrity due to the possibility
that he might be returned to slavery under his "masters" from the
Rgueïbatt tribe. Of particular note is the fact that these "masters"
have threatened to kill him if should flee like his older brother had
done some 2-3 years ago. All attempts to make contact with the local
authorities concerning Mr. Matalla's whereabouts and condition have
failed thus far.

Mr. Matalla left behind a family of eleven, including his mother,
three sisters, and seven brothers, who are all believed to still be
in the most basic form of slavery. None of the children have a known
father, and they have received no education during their exposure to
forced labour and exploitation. Matalla served his masters by
shepherding goats, and he fled from them after they threatened his

OMCT is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological
integrity of Matalla, given that his whereabouts remain unknown and
that he runs a grave risk of being returned to his "masters" who have
previously threatened to kill him should he escape. 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.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Mauritania urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to locate and guarantee the physical
and psychological integrity of Mr. Matalla and that of the members of
his family;
ii. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental
freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and
international human rights


· 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:

Please also write to the embassies of Mauritania in your respective

Geneva, February 9th, 2004

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