The United Nations Human Rights Council has been a bad joke for a long time, with many of the world’s worst human rights abusers honored with membership. But tomorrow we will see the reductio ad absurdum, as Mauritania is voted onto the Human Rights Council.
Mauritania, the west African nation where slavery remains a widespread practice, is expected to be voted on to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on Thursday.
Mauritania made slavery illegal in 1981, but did not criminalize the practice of owning slaves until 2007. It was the last country to abolish slavery. According to a 2012 CNN report, only one slave owner had been prosecuted for owning another human being since the practice was made illegal.
While the Mauritanian government officially denies that slavery is ongoing in the country, Mauritanian watchdog groups allege that one out of every two members of the country’s Haratine ethnic minority group are enslaved, and that as many as 20% of the population is enslaved. The exact number of slaves within the country is unclear, and estimates range from 90,000 to 500,000. The Global Slavery Index estimates more than 140,000 people are currently enslaved in the country.
Slavery persisted in Africa long after it was abolished elsewhere, and Mauritania is, one could say, the last pro-slavery holdout. In Mauritania, as has so often been the case, lighter-skinned Arabs own darker-skinned Africans. So what better candidate for the U.N.’s Human Rights Council could there be? There may be a more useless and corrupt organization than the United Nations somewhere in the world, but it isn’t easy to think what it might be.