Mauritania Human Rights Council Death Penalty March 2015

The Advocates for Human Rights submitted a stakeholder report to the UN Human Rights Council for the November 2015 Universal Periodic Review of Mauritania. The stakeholder report addresses Mauritania’s international human rights obligations with regard to the use of the death penalty. It concludes that Mauritania, in failing to abolish the death penalty and in continuing to impose death sentences, does not guarantee its citizens protection against cruel and unusual punishment and violates the rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. The report suggests recommendations that would alleviate such conditions. These steps include both reducing the maximum possible sentence from death to one that is fair, proportionate, and respects international human rights standards, as well as imposing a complete moratorium on executions.

Mauritanian law allows and in some cases mandates the death penalty. No executions have been carried out since 1987, but Mauritania still continues to sentence people to death. At least 55 people are currently on death row, an increase from 37 in 2008.

During the first UPR cycle in 2010, Mauritania said it supported and had already implemented or would implement a number of recommendations pertaining to the death penalty. In spite of these commitments, Mauritania has not made progress toward implementing these recommendations.  

In 2014, Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death after being held in prison for more than one year for the crime of apostasy. His conviction was based on a blog post in which he allegedly “spoke lightly” of the Prophet Mohammed. Although the crime of apostasy under article 306 of the Mauritanian penal code provides for leniency in case of repentance, none was provided despite Mr. Mkhaitir’s repentance during his pretrial hearing. Mauritania also continues to sentence people to death for crimes they committed as juveniles. In 2011, three young men were sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were under 18 years of age, but their sentences were commuted on appeal.