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The most recent and significant political development in Mauritania was the 2017 referendum to amend the 1991 Constitution, in which the President sought to replace the Senate (one of the two houses of Parliament) with elected regional councils, abolish some state institutions, and change the national flag. The Executive, particularly the President of Mauritania has extensive formal and informal powers. The separation of powers in not effective and the National Assembly, the Senate, local municipal councils, and the Judiciary are dependent on and influenced by the President. Since 1978, all of the country’s Presidents were active or former military officers, except for a short 17-months period in 2007 and 2008 when the country was ruled by a civilian President. He was abruptly deposed by the current president in a coup d’état. Thus, given concentration of governmental powers in the hands of the President, who himself came to power in a coup d’état, the ratification of the Malabo Protocol will strongly depend on the President’s will.


Treaty ratification Process

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania gives the power to sign and ratify treaties to the President of the Republic. Although the Constitution does not explicitly state that the President also has the authority to negotiate treaties, this authority can be implied from the signature and ratification provision. Certain treaties, however, require the prior authorization of Parliament, including treaties concerning peace, union, commerce, international organizations, the status of persons, or the State’s borders, or those which engage the finances of the State or modify legislative provisions. As the Malabo Protocol involves the creation of an international judicial body, it appears to belong to the category of treaties requiring authorization from the legislative branch. If there are concerns about a treaty’s conformity with the Constitution, the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, or one-third (1/3) of the Deputies or the Senators can refer treaty to the Constitutional Council for a determination. If the Constitutional Council finds the agreement contrary to the Constitution, the treaty may be ratified only after revision of the Constitution. Mauritania being a monist country, treaties duly ratified have, upon their publication, an authority superior to that of the laws of Mauritania, subject, for each treaty, to their application by the other party.


State of legislation on International and transnational crimes

Mauritania does not have any specific and comprehensive legislation on genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. The penal code of 1983, does not criminalize these international crimes. However, a 2015 law criminalizing slavery and slavery-like practices recognizes that slavery may be a crime against humanity. Also, Mauritania has enacted specific laws on several transnational crimes included in the Malabo Protocol, including terrorism, corruption, money laundering, and human trafficking. In addition, the Constitution and the penal code criminalize the crime of Unconstitutional Change of Government (UCG).


Human Rights treaty signing and ratification trends

Mauritania has ratified most of the AU key human rights treaties. With respect to treaties creating crimes, Mauritania has ratified only the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and its Protocol. An analysis of the time between signature and ratification of AU treaties shows an average time of 30 months. At the UN level, Mauritania is party to the nine (9) core human rights treaties and has also ratified the three (3) main crime-based treaties except the Rome Statute. It takes an average of only 29 months for Mauritania to ratify UN treaties after signature.[1]


AU Judicial bodies membership

Treaty Signature Ratification
Protocol to the African Charter on Human And Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Yes Yes
Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union No No
  Protocol on The Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (Merger Protocol) No No
Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights Yes No


[1] See Annex: Treaty signing and ratification trends, calculation chart, Mauritania.