Mauritania

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Persistent violations
  • Slavery[1]
  • Trafficking of children[2]
  • Children living on the streets[3]
  • Child labour[4]
  • Sexual abuse of children[5]
  • Corporal punishment[6]
  • Discrimination against women and girls[7]
  • Female genital mutilation[8]
  • Early marriage[9]
  • Low minimum age of criminal responsibility[10]
  • Inadequate health provision and high infant and child mortality rates[11]
  • Inadequate provision for children with disabilities[12]
  • Inadequate child rights monitoring bodies[13]
  • Unequal access to education and poor quality education provision[14]

For more details go here

Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Special Rapporteur on slavery, UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Special Rapporteur on slavery
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Special Rapporteur on slavery, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  8. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Universal Periodic Review
  9. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  10. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  11. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  12. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  13. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  14. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Universal Periodic Review



Introduction

Located in West Africa, Mauritania borders Algeria, Mali, Senegal and the Western Sahara. A 2005 coup and subsequent reform process seemed to signal a transition towards democracy, but the government elected in 2007 was ousted again a year later by another military takeover. While the persistence of slavery and associated worst forms of labour are the most commonly cited human rights issues in Mauritania, there are also significant problems with harmful traditional practices, particularly involving women and girls, and the administration of justice.


Geography

Mauritania is located in the Sahara desert belt of west Africa on the Atlantic Ocean, and shares borders with Senegal, Mali, Algeria and Western Sahara. 60 per cent of the country is desert. The capital city is Nouakchott.

Population and Language

Around 3.5 million people live in the country, a figure that has more than doubled since 1980 and is increasing at an annual rate of around 2.5 per cent. Hassaniya Arabic is the official State language, but Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof and French are widely spoken, the latter particularly in business circles.

Politics

Recent Mauritanian history has been marked by persistent coup d'etat, eleven since it declared its independence from France in 1960. The 20 year rule of President Taya was brought to an end in 2005, when he was ousted by the military, which quickly initiated Constitutional reforms allowing for democratic elections. President Abdellahi won the inaugural Presidential elections of 2007 but his presidency lasted only a year before General Abdelaziz staged a coup and assumed the Presidency. In July of 2009, the General stood down from the presidency to hold elections in which he was subsequently returned to the office, though opposition parties alleged electoral fraud.[1]

Terrorism has played a substantial role in modern Mauritania, in that Al-Qaeda in the Arab Maghreb have claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of foreign nationals, and suicide bombings have taken place in the capital. The fight against terrorism was also one of the justifications put forward by President Abdelaziz for staging his coup.[2]

Economy

The Mauritanian economy has experienced broadly positive economic developments in recent years, propelled by the demand for gold, copper and iron and the resultant high commodity prices. Non-oil output increased 5.7 per cent in 2010, and the World Bank has projected similar growth into 2012. As an importer of fuel and food goods, however, this growth has been partially off-set by the rising costs of these imports. The country also has offshore oil and natural gas reserves, though production to date has remained below expected levels.[3]

In its Doing Business Report of 2012, the World Bank rated Mauritania 159th out of 183 countries, indicating serious problems for operating a business within the country, including with regards to infrastructure, low levels of protection for investors and difficulty in securing credit.[4] Transparency International also rated the country poorly in its 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index at 143rd out of 183 countries.[5]

Media and civil society

Under the Taya regime, the media operated under severe restrictions, including the regular seizure of newspapers and the imprisonment of journalists. Since the 2005 military coup and subsequent democratic reforms, press freedom has dramatically improved, indeed in its 2011/12 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders rated the country 67 out of 179, indicating an improvement of 28 places on the previous year. The improved rating was in part a response to the State's adoption of new laws on electronic media, which act to open up the broadcasting sector. The organisation was cautious about hailing a radical change however, and has continued to report on the prosecution and imprisonment of journalists for offences such as “offending public decency”.[6]

Human rights and children's rights

Mauritania has been criticised for a wide range of human rights abuses, particularly in relation to the detention of protesters and the use of anti-terrorism legislation to arbitrarily detain people on political grounds. Conditions within Mauritanian places of detention are reputedly harsh, and prisoners subject to ill-treatment which may amount to torture. In 2011, detainees held under counter-terrorism legislation alleged torture, but no investigation was held regarding the allegations.[7]

The ongoing practice of slavery within the country remains a concern regarding children in the country, though the state has made limited progress in combating the practice,[8] and has secured the conviction of a small number of people involved in enslaving children.[9] The national juvenile justice system has also been widely criticised, for its low minimum age of criminal responsibility and practice of detaining children in facilities that do not reach international standards.[10] In 2011, in contravention of national and international law, three young men were sentenced to death for offences committed whilst under the age of 18.[11]

  1. BBC, "General wins Mauritania election" 19 July 2009
  2. BBC, "Mauritania army 'to fight terror'" 20 July 2009
  3. World Bank, "Mauritania Country Brief"
  4. World Bank, "Doing Business 2012: Doing business in a more transparent world"
  5. Transparency International, "Corruption Perceptions Index 2011"
  6. See Reporters Without Borders, "Website editor still held three weeks after completing prison sentence" 14 January 2010, "Still held illegally, website editor is being tried again on same charge" 3 February 2010 and "Website editor freed under presidential pardon" 26 February 2010
  7. Amnesty International, "World Report 2012: The state of the world's human rights", Mauritania country page
  8. UN Special Rapporteur on Slavery, Mauritania Country Visit 2009 A/HRC/15/20/Add.2
  9. Amnesty International, "World Report 2012: The state of the world's human rights", Mauritania country page
  10. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child for Mauritania's second periodic report, paras. 81 and 82
  11. Amnesty International, "Mauritania: Three juveniles sentenced to death in violation of national and international law"

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