Mauritania is a highly centralized Islamic Republic with a president as head of state and a constitution grounded in French civil law and sharia (Islamic law). The National Assembly exercises legislative functions but was weak relative to the executive. Voters elect municipal councilors and the deputies at the National Assembly. Voters reelected President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to a second and final five-year term in 2014. In 2013 Union for the Republic (UPR), the president’s party, won 76 of 147 seats in the National Assembly in direct legislative elections, which some opposition parties boycotted. Several political parties, but not the major opposition parties, agreed in September 2016 to hold a referendum on proposed amendments to the constitution. On August 5, the government organized a referendum on some constitutional amendments, which the voters approved by an 85 percent margin. This led to the dissolution of the Senate and the transformation of the legislative system into a unicameral one.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights issues included allegations of torture by law enforcement officers; harsh, overcrowded, and dangerous prison conditions; incarceration of children with adult prisoners; arbitrary and politically motivated arrests; lengthy pretrial and incommunicado detention; increased government influence over the judiciary; arbitrary limits on freedom of assembly; violations of freedom of the press, association, and conscience, particularly for antislavery organizations and groups not formally recognized by the government; restrictions on religious freedom; public corruption, continuing slavery, and slavery-related practices; lack of accountability in cases involving gender-based violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation/cutting FGM/C); early and forced marriage; racial and ethnic discrimination by government actors; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, which remains punishable by death; and trafficking in persons.
The government took modest steps to punish officials who committed violations and prosecuted a number of violators, but officials frequently acted with impunity. Civil society organizations objected to the scant number of indictments handed down by the authorities.
For Further Reference
Full U.S. Department of State Human Rights Country Report
U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Country Report
U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report Country Narrative
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Amnesty International Annual Report Country Chapter
Freedom House Freedom in the World Country Report