Torture in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]
Street Children in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]
Child Prostitution in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]

Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century                                                            

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many of the nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for nearly 40% of total exports. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986.

The Government continues to emphasize reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 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.

*** ARCHIVES ***

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.

The state of the world's human rights

Amnesty International AI, Annual Report 2013

[accessed 29 Jan 2014]


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.

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]

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.).

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

2009 Edition

[accessed 5 February 2013]

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.

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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>]



Torture in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]
Street Children in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]
Child Prostitution in  [Mauritania]  [other countries]