Mauritania gives first significant penal sentence to slave owner

Mauritania, which has the dubious distinction of being the last country in the world to officially outlaw slavery as well as a reputation for giving harsher prison sentences to those who work to stop the on-going chattel slavery than those who still own slaves, has handed down the first sentence that is more in line with international expectations. Two male defendants were given sentences of 20 years each and a woman was given a sentence of 10 years for holding a person in slavery from birth.

Local abolitionists are not ready to rejoice quite yet as, of the two men, neither is in jail as the older died during the trial and the sentence is posthumous and the other escaped. Until he is recaptured and the sentence enforced they will not feel certain that this is anything other than a face-saving measure for the nation. One aspect that I consider  positive though is that the charges were brought by escaped/rescued former slaves and were treated as regarding an actual crime. It is to be hoped that this reflects a changing cultural expectation from some people being slaves simply by having been born as such to the acknowledgement that all people have a right to liberty no matter the status of their birth.

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