Mauritania Human Rights


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.


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.

  • In April, two demonstrations were violently repressed. The protests were attended by political parties and civil society organizations, including the Coordination of Democratic Forces – a coalition formed by the National Front for the Defence of Democracy and comprising trade union federations, human rights activists and civil society.
  • On 2 April, police beat human rights defender Boubacar Messaoud, president of SOS Esclaves, an NGO that campaigns against slavery, and several members of parliament, including Kobade Ould Cheick and Mohamed Moustapha Ould Bedredine, and fired tear gas at them as they staged a peaceful protest against the August 2008 coup.
  • On 19 April, many women, including former ministers, members of parliament and human rights defenders, were kicked or beaten with batons and belts by security forces. The women were staging a sit-in in front of the UN headquarters in Nouakchott. Nebghouha Mint Mohamed Vall, former Education Minister, and her daughter were beaten by the police. Another woman lost consciousness and had to be hospitalized after she too was beaten by the police.



UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, announced in October that more than 14,000 Mauritanian refugees, comprising over 3,500 families, had returned from Senegal since the start of the year. Since the beginning of the return of refugees in January 2008, nearly 20,000 Mauritanians had come back to Mauritania from neighbouring countries. Out of 12,000 refugees still living in Mali, around 8,000 had expressed a wish to return to Mauritania. Between 1989 and 1991, thousands of Mauritanians fled to neighbouring countries in the aftermath of repression against the black Mauritanian population.


Prisoners of Conscience – Releases

Isselmou Ould Abdelkhader Isselmou, a former Minister of Health detained since September 2008 for criticizing the coup against President Sidi, was provisionally released in February. In June, four other detainees, including the former Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Administration, were released on bail.


Death Penalty

Courts continued to impose the death penalty, although no executions were reported. At the end of the year, at least one person was under sentence of death.