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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

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In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Prison conditions are harsh, and security forces suspected of human rights abuses operate with impunity. There are reports that prisoners, particularly terrorism suspects, are subject to torture by authorities.

  [Freedom House Country Report, 2009]

Description: Description: Mauritania

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Mauritania.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Mauritania

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 28 July 2021]


The constitution prohibits torture. The law considers torture, acts of torture, and inhuman or degrading punishments as crimes against humanity not subject to a statute of limitations. The law specifically covers activities in prisons, rehabilitation centers for minors in conflict with the law, places of custody, psychiatric institutions, detention centers, areas of transit, and border crossing points.

On May 23, three officers with the Traffic Safety Police arrested and harassed a group of young persons. Video of the arrest was widely shared on social media and showed the officers kicking and harassing the group. The officers involved were arrested and immediately removed from the Traffic Safety Police Force.

Complaints filed with the courts for allegations of torture were submitted to police for investigation. The government continued to deny the existence of “unofficial” detention centers, even though NGOs and the United Nations pointed out their continuing usage. Neither the MNP nor the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) directly addressed the existence of these places.


Prison conditions remained life threatening due to persistent food shortages, violence, inadequate sanitary conditions, lack of adequate medical care, and indefinite pretrial detention.


Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem, although no statistics on the average length of detention were available.

Torture Against Terrorism

Hannah Armstrong, International Herald Tribune, Nouakchott, 7 May 2013

[accessed 8 May 2013]

Outside our tent on a beach about 100 miles north of the capital, the Atlantic Ocean was glittering under the midday sun and a fresh tuna was searing on a grill. Inside, the conversation with my Mauritanian friends turned to torture and detention. One described how he’d been chained up naked for weeks; another talked about his brother who had a pin inserted under his fingernails. Both victims had been arrested during a crackdown on political dissidents in 2003, in the twilight of the 21-year dictatorship of Maaouya Sid’Ahmed Ould Taya.

Taya was deposed in 2005, but torture, which has been moored in Mauritania’s security apparatus for decades, has continued.

But the costs of this success are great. According to Aminetou Mint Ely, leader of the Association of Women Heads of Households, who regularly conducts prison visits with Amnesty International, Salafist prisoners are often hung naked from a metal bar in the so-called jaguar position, with their hands and feet tied. Then they are beaten or burned with cigarettes.

In May 2011, 14 men convicted of terrorism were taken at night from Nouakchott’s central prison. They have not been heard from since. (Several sources told me they are being held at a black site prison in the country’s interior.) Amnesty International has documented more than 60 cases of torture in Mauritanian prisons since 2010.

Three men sentenced to death after torture

Amnesty International AI, 27 May 2010 -- UA: 124/10 Index: AFR 38/002/2010  Mauritania

[accessed 8 January 2019]

The three Mauritanian men, Sidi Ould Sidna, Maarouf Ould Haiba and Mohamed Ould Chabarnou, were sentenced to death on 25 May by the Criminal Court in the capital, Nouakchott. They had admitted to being members of the Islamist armed group Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

In court, they denied killing the French tourists, and their lawyers protested constantly that the men had given statements under torture after they were arrested, in January 2008, and that these had been used as evidence against them during their trial.

For details of Amnesty International's concerns about torture of alleged Islamists, see the report Mauritania: torture at the heart of the State, AI Index AFR 38/009/2008.

Amnesty International met the three men several times, during two research missions in Mauritania, while they were in custody. Each of them said they had been tortured for several weeks, one of them saying he had been tortured, beaten and humiliated every day for 18 days. Another said he had been tortured, deprived of sleep and food for a month, and threatened with rape and humiliation. The third one explained how he had been subjected to the "jaguar" technique, in which his wrists and ankle were bound together and he was hung by them from a bar.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 6   Civil Liberties: 5   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 5 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

The judicial system is heavily influenced by the government. Many decisions are shaped by Sharia (Islamic law), especially in family and civil matters. Prison conditions are harsh, and security forces suspected of human rights abuses operate with impunity. There are reports that prisoners, particularly terrorism suspects, are subject to torture by authorities. Between May and June 2008, a new prison for suspected terrorists was built on a military base, and several inmates staged a hunger strike on June 6 to protest conditions there.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be widely reported in detention centres, including in Ksar and Tevragh-Zeina police stations and in Nouakchott women’s prison.

A student detained at Ksar police station following the February student demonstrations had his hands and feet tied together with a rope, and was beaten and stamped on during interrogation.

Two women detained at the women’s prison reported being severely beaten when they were arrested in 2010, and during interrogation at a police station.

No investigations were opened into allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody and during interrogation


The authorities failed to disclose the whereabouts of 14 prisoners sentenced for terrorism-related offences and abducted from the central prison in the capital, Nouakchott, in May 2011. They included Mohamed Ould Chabarnou, Sidi Ould Sidina, Maarouf Ould Heiba, Khadim Ould Semane, Mohamed Ould Abdou, Abderrahmane Ould Areda and Mohamed Ould Chbih. The authorities maintained that their transfer to a secret location was a temporary measure for security reasons.


For more articles:: Search Amnesty International’s website

[accessed 8 January 2019]

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Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 5 February 2013]

[accessed 4 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – Although the law prohibits such practices there were credible reports that police routinely beat and tortured suspects in custody, which resulted in at least one death (see section 1.a). There were instances of torture in prisons. Alleged police torture techniques included beating, hanging, burning with cigarettes, electric shock, and cutting. According to reports, those who lacked money or influential family or tribal ties were the most likely to be tortured.

Prisoners released under a May amnesty reported repeated beatings, in particular at the Ouad Naga and police school prisons (see section 1.d.). Prisoners cited a March 15 beating when forces, under the command of gendarmerie lieutenant H'Moudy Ould Taya, attacked the group, beat them and stole their possessions and clothing.

On September 29, the Nouakchott Info, a local daily newspaper, reported the torture of several Islamists including Ismael Issa, arrested by the former government during the yea; Issa remained in prison. The article included a graphic photo of Issa's legs, which bore severe wounds reportedly inflicted by police during various interrogations (see section 1.d.).

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Mauritania",, [accessed <date>]