Head of government Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf
Death penalty abolitionist in practice
Population 3.3 million
Life expectancy 56.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 128/112 per 1,000
Adult literacy 55.8 per cent
Security forces used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and members of parliament. Torture and other ill-treatment were frequently reported. Prison conditions remained harsh. Dozens of people suspected of belonging to armed groups were detained without trial. Hundreds of migrants were held and expelled with no opportunity to challenge the legality of their detention or collective expulsion. No executions were reported, but at least one person was under sentence of death.
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who became President in August 2008 after a coup against the democratically elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, resigned in April from the army to stand in the July presidential elections. His victory was confirmed by the Constitutional Court, although the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission threw doubts on the reliability of the results and resigned.
Mauritania, suspended from the AU after the 2008 coup, was readmitted in June before the presidential elections.
Torture, other ill-treatment and prison conditions
Torture and other ill-treatment were widespread. In September, in a telephone conversation with a journalist, a detainee complained about the systematic use of torture on most inmates.
Despite the release of 68 detainees in September from Dar Naïm, prisons remained overcrowded. Harsh and arbitrary punishments continued to be reported. In Nouadhibou and Dar Naïm prisons, detainees were crammed together in stifling heat. Only old and sick detainees were occasionally allowed to leave their cells. Detainees went on hunger strike to protest against food shortages. Families of detainees staged a sit-in to protest against torture of prisoners suspected of terrorism.
- Cheikhani Ould Sidina, arrested in 2008 and sentenced to one year in prison for helping his brother to escape from a court, died in Nouakchott prison in April. The Justice Department subsequently announced that it would investigate conditions of detention there.
Excessive use of force
In the first six months of 2009, the security forces regularly used excessive force to prevent demonstrators from protesting against the electoral timetable.