Friday, August 10, 2007


Mauritania has finally joined the civilised world by criminalising slavery. The government had officially banned it 25 years ago, but without criminal penalties, the ban was inefective. As a result, an estimated 600,000 people - 20% of the population - are still enslaved. Now, those peple will be freed - or at least they will be if the law is actually enforced.

One area in which the law goes to far however is in imposing criminal punishment for promoting or being an apologist for slavery. While slavery is a crime against humanity, such a ban (like those on Holocaust denial) contravenes freedom of speech. Ideas, even abhorrent ones, must be allowed to stand or fall on their own merits. that way, we can all see clearly whether they are wrong, rather than merely being told so by those in authority.