Governance and human rights Existing legislation is not being implemented consistently

In Mauretania, shortcomings in governance mainly concern the poor implementation of existing laws and strategies. Corruption is widespread.

Street vendors in Ouad Naga, Mauritania

Street vendors in Ouad Naga, Mauritania

Street vendors in Ouad Naga, Mauritania

Although independence of the judiciary is enshrined in the constitution, in practice it is not always fully realised. There is a lack of qualified staff, with many posts occupied by judges and prosecutors who are loyal to the regime. Traditional Islamic Sharia law overlies public legal systems throughout the entire country.

Human rights

The human rights situation in Mauritania has improved in recent years. Various regulations to protect human rights are enshrined in the constitution and in national legislation. Application of these regulations, however, is poor.

Women enjoy more political and social freedoms in Mauritania than in other Islamic states. And yet, due to social traditions and religious beliefs, women are still subject to discrimination, especially in the lower social strata.

Female genital mutilation is widespread. Supported by the government and Islamic religious leaders, numerous development and non-governmental organisations are engaged in fighting this cruel practice.

Another elementary violation of human rights is slavery, which remains widespread in Mauritania. Slavery was officially abolished in 1980 and offenders have been liable to criminal prosecution since 2007. Under pressure from the United Nations a new law was adopted in 2015 which includes a more far-reaching definition of slavery and provides for stronger sanctions.

Media freedom

Mauritania has a comparatively free press. The behaviour of government members and administrative officials is a topic for critical debates, especially in digital media. However, only the educated elites in large cities have access to newspapers and the internet.

Non-governmental organisations criticise the repeated restrictions on the rights – in particular, of human rights activists, bloggers and the opposition – to freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. In 2020, a new law threatening prison sentences for the publication of false information in social media drew international attention.

In its development cooperation projects, Germany is pushing for better protection of human rights and, in particular, for freedom of opinion and freedom of the media.

As at: 31/03/2021