Hacenna Ould Boukhreïss
Mauritania's Commissioner for Human Rights, Hacenna Ould Boukhreïss, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in a mandatory review of its government's track record on human rights, January 19, 2021.

UNHRC Delegates Praise Slave-Holding Mauritania on Human Rights

GENEVA, January 19, 2021 — Country speakers taking the floor today at the UN Human Rights Council showered praise on Mauritania during a mandatory human rights review that all UN member states undergo every five years. (See quotes below).

While the UN procedure known as Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is meant to scrutinize governments and thereby strengthen the basic rights and freedoms of their citizens, according to a UN Watch count, 83 out of 98 countries that spoke today at the UNHRC—85 percent—praised Mauritania for its human rights achievements.

This includes 48 countries that glowingly praised the abusive Mauritanian regime for their human rights record, and another 35 that expressed some praise for the country’s alleged achievements.

“It is shameful that only a very small minority of 15 countries used their allotted 1 minute of speaking time to apply scrutiny to Mauritania’s human rights record,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva.

“Shamefully, the vast majority of country speakers turned a blind eye to Mauritania’s 500,000 slaves, its arrest of anti-slavery activists like Biram Dah Abeid, use of torture to extract confessions, and its death penalty for homosexuality,” said Neuer.

Below is a selection of the praise expressed by 85% of the UNHRC delegates:

China: “We welcome [Mauritania’s] implementation of the strategy for accelerating growth and prosperity to continue to promote social and economic development, education, health, safeguarding the rights of the vulnerable, and actively fighting COVID.”

Cuba: “We acknowledge the country’s efforts to increase the quality of life of its population, and to reduce poverty, in the face of the COVID pandemic.”

North Korea: “We highly commend Mauritania for their efforts and progress in the promotion and protection of human rights by strengthening human rights institutions.”

Egypt: “We appreciate the efforts made by Mauritania to uphold human rights, notably the efforts to strengthen the legislative and institutional structure, and to ratify international conventions as well as the advancement of the status of women, and work on combating contemporary forms of slavery.”

India: “As a fellow member of the Human Rights Council, we appreciate Mauritania’s continued efforts in its commitment to promote and protect human rights through enactment of various human rights-related legislation, relevant policies and programs at national level.”

Indonesia: “Indonesia welcomes [Mauritania’s] progress in implementing accepted recommendations from the previous review cycle, particularly adoption of legislative and institutional frameworks in the area of promotion of women’s rights, efforts towards eliminating slavery, and civil and political rights.”

Iran: “We appreciate actions taken by Mauritania to combat contemporary forms of slavery and particularly the establishment of special courts and judicial assistance for victims.”

Iraq: “We welcome reforms to the institutional framework of the country, including reforms to the state with the aim of promoting civil, political and public freedoms for all.”

Jordan: “We welcome the big progress made by Mauritania in the field of human rights including the establishment of the road map to combat all forms of slavery.”

Kuwait: “The report reflects the importance given by Mauritania for the protection of human rights.”

Libya: “We commend the government for respecting its commitments in the field of human rights despite the pandemic.”

Mauritius: “We commend the progress accomplished by Mauritania such as penalizing early marriages and FGM.”

Philippines: “We commend the adoption of laws in the promotion and protection of human rights especially in health, children’s rights, and prevention of trafficking.”

Russia: “The adoption of laws on criminal liability for discrimination, on combating the smuggling of migrants and on combating trafficking in human beings, and a child protection code, deserves a positive assessment.”

UN Watch