Security forces used excessive and lethal force, including against protesters; one youth was killed by gunfire. Amid marches against the national census, protesters were arrested and sentenced to prison terms. The government clamped down heavily on suspected acts of terrorism. The whereabouts of 14 prisoners remained unknown after they disappeared from a prison in the capital, Nouakchott. Eight people were sentenced to death, including three minors.
A census of the population, begun in April, was feared to be discriminatory by some human rights organizations. Protests took place in Nouakchott, Kaedi and Maghama. The President of the National Assembly urged that the process be suspended.
Frequent clashes between the army and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) caused losses on both sides. The army also carried out operations against AQIM in Mali. In December, a member of the security forces was kidnapped by AQIM members.
In January, Mauritania’s human rights record was assessed under the Universal Periodic Review. The government committed to ending the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and to end the use of excessive force by the police and security forces. It also committed to developing a national strategy for the eradication of slavery in all its forms.
There were questions surrounding the independence of the judiciary after a judge was dismissed in September.Top of page
The authorities placed restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association.
Throughout the year at least 12 people, including Mohamed Lemine Ould Mballe, were arrested on suspicion of being members of AQIM. Most spent more than 40 days in police custody.
At least 18 people were tried and sentenced to prison terms or to death. Although the detainees alleged that they had been tortured, the court did not order any inquiry.
In May, 14 prisoners who had been sentenced for terrorism activities were taken at night from a Nouakchott central prison to an unknown location. In June, some of their belongings were returned to their families without any explanation. The whereabouts of the 14, including Sidi Ould Sidina and Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Sebty, remained unknown at the end of the year. The authorities told an Amnesty International delegation in November that they had been transferred for security reasons.Top of page
Security forces used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators in several towns including Kaedi, Maghama and Nouakchott. The arbitrary and indiscriminate use of tear gas injured scores of protesters. One person was killed.
Individuals faced arbitrary arrest, harassment and discrimination because of their suspected homosexual activity. In November, 14 men were arrested and accused of being homosexuals; they remained held in Dar Naïm prison.Top of page
Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be widely reported in detention centres, including police stations and Dar Naïm prison. Methods included kicking, beating, suspension by the arms, shackling in painful positions and deprivation of sleep and food.Top of page
In November, the death sentences of seven people convicted of murder during the last decade were commuted.
Throughout the year at least eight people were sentenced to death by the Criminal Court in Nouakchott, including three aged under 18 when the crimes were committed. Following an appeal by the prosecutor, on 8 December the Court of Appeal of Nouakchott commuted the death sentences of the three aged under 18 to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine.Top of page
Seven people, a woman and six children, escaped from slavery with the help of human rights organizations. Among the six children were Yarg and Saïd, two brothers aged 11 and 14, who escaped slavery in August. In November, the Nouakchott Criminal Court convicted six people for enslaving Yarg and Saïd and ordered that compensation be paid to their families.Top of page
At least 3,000 migrants, mostly from Senegal, Mali and Guinea, were arbitrarily arrested. They were held in detention centres in Mauritania for several days before being returned to Senegal or Mali.
In October, migrants from Mali and Senegal were arrested and charged with unauthorized assembly and threatening national security. They were each given a suspended prison sentence of one year and detained for more than 10 days at Dar Naïm prison before being sent to Senegal.Top of page