Mauritania court hands toughest sentences to jail owners

A Mauritania court on Friday jailed two slave owners – one for 10 years and the other for 20 years – in what is said to be the toughest ever punishment for the crime in the West African country.

Slavery is prohibited in the country but activists say the vice is still widespread, and convictions are rare.

Human rights group reports indicate that 1 per cent of the population still live in bondage.

Black people of certain ethnic groups are often enslaved as domestic workers by lighter-skinned Mauritanians.

The court in the north-western town of Nouadhibou gave a 20-year prison sentence to Hamoudi Ould Saleck. His father – who died before the trial ended – received the same sentence posthumously.

Both were accused of “reducing to slavery” a family, two of whom were children.

A woman, Revea Mint Mohamed, was jailed for 10 years for keeping three slaves – one of whom was a 29-year-old who had been kept since she was a small girl.

Both cases had been brought by former slaves.

Mauritania criminalized slavery in 2015. In past cases, slave-owners were sentenced to two to five years.