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With a moratorium on executions
Country status
Figures for the year 2022. The last execution in Mauritania was in 1987.

ECPM has been working in Mauritania since 2014 to support its local partners by promoting dialogue with national authorities, strengthening advocacy with regional and international human rights protection mechanisms, providing assistance in the defence of those sentenced to death and advocating for the improvement of their conditions of detention.

Mauritania has applied a moratorium since 1987, but Mauritanian criminal courts continue to hand down death sentences on a regular basis. The conditions of detention and treatment of death row prisoners do not comply with United Nations minimum standards in this area (Mandela Rules). This is documented in the report of the fact-finding mission “Le bagne au pays des sables” (The prison in the land of sands) carried out from December 2017 to December 2018 by Nordine Drici, President of the association Planète réfugiés-Droits de l’homme (PRDH), published in 2019.

National Conference in Nouakchott (March 2022)


Mauritanian law guarantees a number of rights to persons deprived of their liberty, including those on death row. However, in practice, conditions of detention are particularly difficult. Prisons in Nouakchott are overcrowded. The Mauritanian authorities have therefore transferred prisoners, including those on death row, to the prisons of Aleg and Bir Moghreïn, located 1,200 km from Nouakchott. These transfers strongly affect family ties between prisoners and their relatives, as well as their links with lawyers. Access to health care is largely inadequate and every year prisoners die as a result of inadequate medical treatment or lack of timely access to care. Although figures are not available, mortality rates are said to be particularly high in Dar Naim central prison, Aleg prison and Bir Moghrein prison, the latter situated a long way from any hospital. There are also shortcomings in terms of hygiene and the quantity of food available given the high numbers of prisoners.

Access to education and training for prisoners on death row is very limited due to the limited resources available to the Ministry of Justice. However, such activities are partly carried out by associations. Most foreign death row prisoners do not have the guarantees to which they are entitled, in terms of access to an interpreter, and their lawyers, who are court-appointed, do not have enough time to become familiar with their clients’ case files.

“The verdict was issued: I was sentenced to death. I didn’t understand anything at the hearing, which took place in Hassanya, a language I don’t speak. I didn’t have a Fulani interpreter, and it was a Fulani policeman who explained to me, as he took me outside the criminal court, that I had been sentenced to death.”

A former death row prisoner, interviewed during the fact-finding mission

The Penitentiary Decree of 23 May 1970 (Art. 14) imposes an obligation on the investigating judge to visit prisons on a regular basis and provides for the establishment of a supervisory commission in each prison to monitor “health, safety, food, health care, penal labour, discipline and compliance with regulations” (Art. 15). However, owing to a lack of material, financial and human resources, such visits and inspections cannot be carried out.


Mauritania has one of the longest-standing moratoria in the Maghreb. The last execution, following a judgement by a military court, took place in 1987. Progress towards abolition of the death penalty, such as the adoption of legislative measures to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death, is conceivable. The issue of sexual violence against women and children is at the centre of societal problems and human rights violations, that impact on the entire society in the short and medium term. Some actors may be tempted to call for the application of the death penalty. However, the death penalty does not have a stronger deterrent effect and studies tend to show that states that have abolished the death penalty do not have a higher incidence of sexual violence than those that apply the death penalty. In fact, the opposite is true. There are many alternatives to the death penalty in the fight against sexual violence. The application of the death penalty for violence against women does not increase their importance in terms of priorities or the proportionality of offences to penalties.

ECPM works in Mauritania with the Coalition mauritanienne contre la peine de mort, Planète Réfugiés-Droits de l’Homme (PRDH), the Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH), the Comité de Solidarité avec les Victimes des Violations des Droits humains (CSVVDH) and the association RAFAH.

Since 2017, ECPM has been coordinating the project “Strengthening Progress towards the Abolition of the Death Penalty”, with the support of the Agence française de développement, Norway, Switzerland, the European Union Delegation in Morocco and the Fondation de France.

All reports

Human Rights Protection Mechanisms
Mauritania, 37th session, Alternative report in the view of the universal periodic review, death penalty, 2020 (French)
Oct 2022
Human Rights Protection Mechanisms
Mauritania, Alternative report submitted to the Human Rights Committee for consideration of the periodic report 126th session July 2019 (French)
Oct 2022
Conditions of detention
Prison in the Land of Sands: Death Penalty, Conditions of Detention and Treatment of Death Row Prisoners, Mauritania (French, Arabic)
Oct 2022
Abolition process
The process of abolishing the death penalty in member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
Oct 2020

All tools

Infographics – the death penalty in Mauritania (2022)
Mauritania : the death penalty in law and in practice
Abolition of the death penalty: A practical guide for NHRIs
Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia : from moratorium to abolition of the death penalty

All news

cover 10 arguments for the abolition in arabic
Editorial / opinion page
ECPM publishes 10 arguments against the death penalty in Arabic
02 March 2022
As part of its project co-funded by the European Union, Norway and the French Development Agency, ECPM is publishing a leaflet against the death penalty in Arabic. The leaflet aims to strengthen awareness and advocacy among Arabic-speaking interlocutors and is available both print and online.
cover publication
The process of abolishing the death penalty in member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
26 November 2020
As the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers organised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is being held in Niamey, Niger, on 27 and 28 November 2020, ECPM and Nael Georges publish the study The process of abolishing the death penalty in member states of the Organisation…
Mauritania cover mission
Editorial / opinion page, In the field
ECPM welcomes the release of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir after more than a year and a half of incommunicado detention [Press release]
03 August 2019
After five years of detention, almost two of which spent incommunicado, Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was finally released on Monday 29 July and is now, since Friday 2 August, in safety in Europe. On Monday, July 8, President Ould Abdel Aziz met with a commission of ulemas to…
In the field, Publication
ECPM and AMDH participated in the 126th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee
18 July 2019
On 4 and 5 July 2019, representatives of ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) and the Mauritanian Human Rights Association (AMDH) were in Geneva to follow up on the recommendations made in the Fact-Finding Mission Report. Prior to the session, the AMDH, ECPM and Planète Réfugiés Droits de l’Homme…
edito flyer
Editorial / opinion page
EDITO – Death Row Investigations: ECPM Expertise
27 June 2019
ECPM’s expertise in death row investigations has been in place for many years around the world. Our investigation in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2005 had already received the French Republic Human Rights Prize. The one in Rwanda, carried out in 2007, was cited by the Kagame government as…