French court finds Burundi ex-minister guilty of slavery

17 September 2007

On 17 September, a French court found the former Prime Minister of Burundi and his wife guilty of slavery.

Gabriele Mpozagara and his wife Candide were sentenced in absentia to 12 and 15 months in prison respectively for enslaving their nieces. Each was fined 10,000 euros (US$13,869), plus €24,000 in damages and interest to be paid to the older girl.

In 1994, the couple brought the girls, Chantal and Yvette, to live with them in France after their parents were killed in Burundi. But rather than improving their lives, they were kept in conditions of slavery. The older girl, Chantal, then 13, was made to work as a domestic servant. She was forced to work 16 to 17 hours a day, seven days a week cleaning the house and taking care of the couple’s six children. The girls were deprived of food and kept in brutal conditions.

In 1998, they were rescued after they called the Child Help line and were helped by the organisations Enfance et Partage and Anti-Slavery International’s French partner the Comité Contre l’Esclavage, which brought their case to court.

The case was delayed for eight years by Mpozagara’s claiming diplomatic immunity. His claim was rejected by France’s Supreme Court enabling it to go to trial.