Country visit by Special Rapporteur on racism (2013)

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mr Mutuma Ruteere, visited Mauritania from 2-8 September 2013. Speaking on the final day of his visit, the Special Rapporteur described Mauritanian society as ‘deeply stratified’ with discrimination along ethnic or caste lines. He also encouraged the government to tackle caste discrimination.

Statement by the Special Rapporteur

UN news article on the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Mauritania

Mr Ruteere’s report was presented at the 26th session of the Human RightsCouncil in June 2014. Please find the report here: The 2014 Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, on his mission to Mauritania (2 to 8 September 2013)

In the report, the Special Rapporteur highlights that Mauritania remains a society deeply stratified by caste. Please find all the references to caste in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Racism here

Country visit by Special Rapporteur on slavery (2009)

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Ms Gulnara Shahinian, visited Mauritania in October-November 2009. Her report (A/HRC/15/20/Add.2) was presented to the 15th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2010. It contained numerous references to caste-based slavery.

Country visit by Special Rapporteur on racism (2008)

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mr Diène, visited Mauritania from 20 to 24 January 2008 at the Government’s invitation.

The mission report (A/HRC/11/36/Add.2) was prepared by Special Rapporteur Mr. Diène who visited Mauritania from 20 to 24 January 2008 at the Government’s invitation and annexed to the report considered by the Human Rights Council at its 11th session in June 2009.


In the report, the Special Rapporteur concludes that Mauritanian society has been deeply marked by continuing discriminatory practices of an ethnic and racial nature, rooted in cultural traditions and pervasively present in social structures, the principal institutions of the State, in particular the armed forces and justice system, and attitudes. A number of persistent features of Mauritanian society have given substance and depth to such discrimination over a long period of time, including: the central role of traditional slavery; the cultural and social entrenchment of the caste system (para. 64).

Legal provisions against slavery

22. Slavery has long been a problem in all ethnic communities in Mauritania. Differences of opinion exist even among those who admit that the practice continues to exist and has left its mark on contemporary Mauritanian society: some deny it exists in their community, but point the finger at other ethnic groups; others claim it is limited to the Arab-Berber community; still others
say it also exists in the other communities but in the form of a caste-like system.
41. Most of the officials who met with the Special Rapporteur stated that slavery was no longer practised and had left merely traces, underpinned to a large extent by underdevelopment, poor living conditions and poverty. In order to eradicate these remnants of slavery – which in many cases were not very different from the problem of castes, which affected all communities –
the authorities stressed the importance of the new law criminalizing and penalizing slavery. They noted that a number of supporting measures will be introduced to implement the law, including the creation of mechanisms for the social and economic reintegration of the victims of slavery and a wide-ranging public awareness campaign.
45. The great majority of civil society representatives were convinced that racism, racial discrimination and intolerance are deeply rooted in Mauritanian society. They believe that the problem of slavery, the existence of castes and, more recently, political practices that have favoured the Arab dimension in the building of a national identity, have contributed to discrimination and created divisions among the various communities.


84. The commission should tackle the main issues in Mauritanian society which give rise to discrimination, including the issue of slavery and caste and political practices which, in recent years, have made ethnicity a political tool and have widened the gap between the various communities. It should be mandated, on the one hand, to draft a white paper on the status, root causes, manifestations and consequences of the discrimination which has scarred Mauritanian history and, on the other hand, to develop on that basis a national programme of action against all forms of discrimination to help counteract the consequences of the injustices and discrimination experienced by Mauritanian society.

Read UN treaty body recommendations on Mauritania

Read more about UN Special Procedures and country visits to affected countries