Truth Commission: Mauritius

Truth Commission: Mauritius
Truth Commission: Truth and Justice Commission
Duration: February 2009-2011 (expected)
Charter: Truth and Justice Commission Act No. 28 (August 22, 2008)
Commissioners: 5 (4 male, 1 female)
Report: Not yet issued
 

Truth Commission: Truth and Justice Commission

Dates of Operation: The commission was inaugurated in February 2009. The mandate forsees a duration of two years (not including a three-month preparatory period), with the possibility of six-month extension(s) by the President.

Background: Throughout the colonial and post-colonial period, workers were abused in Mauritius. Although slavery was abolished in 1835, slavery and slavery-related practices remained very common and also continued in other forms including debt bondage or indentured labor. It is said that close to half a million people were brought to Mauritius, primarily from India, to work under conditions of slaves. Mostly these laborers were poor men, women, and children. Laborers were exploited to do hard agricultural and other work, and they were often not given sufficient food, shelter, and clothing.

In 2009, the Parliament of Mauritius decided to create a Truth and Justice Commission to examine slavery and indentured labor since the colonization of the island in 1638.

Charter: Truth and Justice Commission Act No. 28, Mauritius, adopted by the parliament on August 22, 2008.

Mandate: The Truth and Justice Commission is tasked to undertake an inquiry into the legacy of slavery and indentured labor in Mauritius. The commission also has the responsibility to determine appropriate measures to be extended to descendants of slaves and indentured laborers, and to investigate complaints of the dispossession of land. The Mauritius Truth and Justice Commission is unique in that it deals with socio-economic class abuses and attempts to cover more than 370 years (1638-present), the longest period that a truth commission has ever attempted to cover. 

Commissioners and Structure: The mandate forsees a commission of five members. The President selected four men and one woman. Four members are nationals, while the current chair, Alex Boraine, is a citizen of South Africa and the former deputy chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Robert Shell, a previous chair, stepped down. The commission has 65 support staff.

Report: The commission released its report in November 2011.

Findings:

  • The final report documents the economics of colonialism, slavery, and indentured servitude, the experiences of indentured Africans, Indians, and French engagés, and living and working conditions on sugar estates.
  • To promote national reconciliation, the commission recommended 1) memorializing slavery; 2) a better understanding and more inclusive account of Mauritian history and culture; 3) a better and increased protections of Mauritian heritage; 4) a less racist and elitist society; 5) a more democratic public life, and; 6) empowerment of Mauritians of African and Malagasy origin, as well as other recommendations to increase economic and social justice, particularly related to land issues and equitable and judicious use of the environment.

Sources:

Hayner, Priscilla B. Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2011.

National Assembly of Mauritius, Second Reading of the Truth and Justice Commission Bill, August 5, 2008.

Allen, Richard B. Slaves, Freedman, and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press, 1999.

February 9, 2012
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