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.
In the first six months of 2009, the security forces regularly used excessive force to prevent demonstrators from protesting against the electoral timetable.
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.
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.
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.