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June 01, 2011

Anti-Slavery Program Launched in Mali

June 2011 

More than 100 Malian government and civil society representatives attended a May 21 conference in Bamako that launched the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) program to combat descent-based, or hereditary, slavery. ABA ROLI is partnering with the Malian anti-slavery organization Temedt to combat this practice by operating a legal clinic, by offering psychological and vocational assistance to victims and by conducting community outreach to raise awareness of the problem.

Boya Dembele, who coordinates the efforts of the Ministry of Justice to combat trafficking in persons, gave the conference’s opening remarks. He underscored the government’s support for the program, and reminded participants that slavery is “one of the worst forms of human rights violations,” while praising ABA ROLI’s program as a “decisive step” against slavery in Mali. Malian human rights lawyer and ABA ROLI Country Director, Amadou Tiéoulé Diarra emphasized that, consistent with ABA ROLI’s core principles, the program will aim to complement the government’s existing efforts, and will “intervene only on the basis of applicable international conventions and national laws.”

Lalla Touré, who will coordinate ABA ROLI’s legal clinic, provided an overview of the clinic and the activities that will be conducted in partnership with Temedt. She shared that the clinic will provide free legal services to enslaved persons seeking their freedom and train lawyers, police, prosecutors and judges on handling slavery cases. With support from ABA ROLI, Temedt will offer psychological assistance and vocational training to victims visiting the clinic. Outreach campaigns will raise awareness of the existence of slavery and the laws governing it, as well as ensuring that victims are aware of the services available to them. Finally, while Mali’s constitution guarantees equal protection under the law and can be interpreted as prohibiting slavery, there is no specific law criminalizing the practice. ABA ROLI will work with Temedt to finalize a draft law criminalizing slavery and to advocate for its adoption.

Given the contested space that slavery occupies in Mali—significant sections of society challenging its very existence—the conference raised the profile of the issue amongst key actors, the vast majority of whom offered their support for ABA ROLI’s work. The conference also received extensive coverage in national radio and print media.

To learn more about our work in Mali, contact the ABA Rule of Initiative at [email protected]