government: presidential republic
state of civil and political rights: Not free
constitution: 12 July 1991
legal system: a combination of Islamic law and French civil law
legislative system: bicameral legislature consists of the Senate (Majlis al-Shuyukh) and National Assembly (Majlis al-Watani)
judicial system: three-tier system: lower, appeals, and Supreme Court
religion: Muslim 100%
death row: 52 (www.deathpenaltyworldwide.org, as of March 31, 2011)
year of last executions: 0-0-1987
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Rights of the Child
European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
High treason, premeditated murder and torture are capital crimes. With the introduction of Islamic law in 1980, the scope of the death penalty has been widened to include apostasy, homosexuality and rape, but the application of severe punishment according to Sharia - such as flogging - was rare. Muslim men engaged in homosexual sex can be stoned to death, according to a law of 1984, meanwhile women face prison.
Condemned prisoners can appeal to the Court of Cassation and can also ask for a review of their sentence. The condemned cannot be executed until a pardon has been refused.
The last executions took place in 1987. Three armed forces officers sentenced to death by the State Security Chamber for plotting to overthrow the regime were put to death.
In January 2005, 195 defendants were put on trial charged with three failed attempts to topple President Maaouiya Ould Taya in 2003 and 2004. The prosecution demanded the death penalty for 17 of the accused. Nine of these are being tried in absentia, including Sidi Mohamed Mustapha Ould Limam Chavi, an adviser of President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, who is accused of buying arms for the conspirators and helping them to flee justice.
Critics of the president accuse him of using allegations of coup plots supported by foreign powers as a pretext to clamp down on the opposition. Several civilian opposition leaders have been arraigned alongside dissident military officers in the mass trial.
In 2011, Mauritania has imposed the death penalty to three young men for crimes committed when they were under 18 years of age, but their sentence was commuted on appeal. In 2012, at least six death sentences were imposed in Mauritania, including three on terrorism related charges according to Amnesty International.
In November 2010, during the Universal Periodic Review process by the UN Human Rights Council, Mauritania reminded that no executions had been carried out for 23 years but explained this is not a moratorium and that the introduction of a moratorium may be considered such as possible alternatives. In March 2011 Mauritania rejected the recommendations to abolish the death penalty that emerged from its Universal Periodic Review.
On December 19, 2016, Mauritania, as in previous years, abstained on the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly. In 2007 it voted against.