In the words of Mariam Koita, a lawyer from Bamako, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) recent training on combating hereditary slavery and forced child labor in Mali, “brought to full light the extent and seriousness of the issue of descent-based slavery and how important it is for lawyers to get more involved in defending the rights of victims of this unspeakable crime.”
Almahady Cissé, ABA ROLI’s Local Partner Advisor, describes the role of paralegals in helping victims of slavery and forced child labor access justice.
ABA ROLI began its work to combat descent-based, or hereditary, slavery in Northern Mali in 2014 but was forced to suspend its work when separatist rebels and extremists overtook large swaths of the country. In 2016, with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, ABA ROLI resumed its work and began similar programming to combat child labor.
From June 12-17, ABA ROLI held a training covering topics such as the legal framework related to slavery and child labor, the roles and duties of paralegals in combating these practices, community awareness and mobilization, mediation techniques and community mediation and victim referrals to social and economic services. Attended by lawyers, paralegals, civil society representatives, transitional justice personnel and traditional leaders from across the country, the training focused on practical cases that involved real life examples. For instance, the training included examples of testimonies from real victims of slavery as case studies for participants to determine potential legal and other remedies. Participants were also asked to determine the various possible legal remedies the victim would be entitled to and what offenses his or her master would be guilty of, and they learned of referral pathways to social, psychological and economic services. Participants reported that they were previously unfamiliar with the issues discussed and the tools available to combat these practices.
“Through this training, I have received the tools to effectively protect rights of victims of slavery during community mediations conducted by traditional leaders to ensure victims are liberated and referred to the appropriate social and economic services,” said Ehya Midi, a paralegal from Timbuktu.
With further support from ABA ROLI, training participants will now put their new knowledge and skills into practice by providing services to victims of hereditary slavery and forced child labor in Northern Mali.
To learn more about our work in Mali, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].