Mauritania – Whistleblowing Protection, Overview

1. Background

With the exception of a few superficial articles in its constitution, Mauritania lacks any whistleblowing protection.

2. Present Legal Environment

Mauritania affords no legislative protection to whistleblowers. The Mauritanian government lacks transparency and it appears unlikely this will change in the foreseeable future. In 2008 the sixth Mauritanian military coup in 35 years, and the second military coup this century1, took place and the responsible junta has since sought to consolidate its power. On July 18 2009 presidential elections were held and Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, leader of the 2008 coup, was elected as Mauritanian president2.
Mauritania has a population of over 4 million people and according to estimates 10-20% are slaves3. It is reportedly very difficult for Mauritanian victims of slavery to pursue justice, despite national laws prohibiting slavery and provisions for victim compensation. Victims retain burden of proof and without a filed victim complaint investigations cannot be pursued4. This example is indicative of the Mauritanian Government’s unwillingness to be forthcoming with its people, and with the international mainstream media.

In March 2013, Mauritanian President established the National Agency to Fight against the Vestiges of Slavery, Integration, and Fight against Poverty, an agency tasked with battling slavery. In addition, in late December 2013, plans to establish a tribunal to prosecute suspects accused of involvement in slavery were announced5. It remains to be seen how effective these agencies are and the genuineness of their intent.

The right to freedom of thought, opinion, expression, and assembly, among other guarantees, are enshrined in Article 10 of the Mauritanian constitution. Specifically, it states no other law can limit these freedoms.

These ‘freedom’ protections notwithstanding, no explicit obligations to protect whistleblowers, or to punish those who retaliate against them, exist.

3. Additional legislative gaps

As previously mentioned, no protective provisions for whistleblowers exist in Mauritania.
Despite Article 10 of the Mauritania constitution, Mauritania lacks any media, freedom of information, or whistleblower laws prescribing a regulatory framework to ensure breaches of the constitution do not occur. In its current legal context, Article 10 stands alone as an ambiguous statement of intent.

4. Case examples of whistleblowing

No recent whistleblower cases are known within the public sphere. This may be due to suppression, or because whistleblowers remain fearful of exposing themselves with the current lack of appropriate legislative protections.

5. Political, economic, and cultural environment

Mauritania is currently characterised by uncertainty. Economic growth in Mauritania continues to rise with an estimated increase of 6.0% in 2012. However, while mining deals brokered in 2012 appeared likely to further drive economic growth, difficulty in the international situation has put a dampener on exports and the mining industry as a whole6.

As stated earlier, the military junta is continuing to consolidate its power. In late 2013 general and local elections were held—the first in the five years since the most recent coup—, but these elections were boycotted by most of the radical opposition parties who termed the elections an “electoral masquerade”7.

No meaningful push appears to be on the agenda for any ‘freedom’ reforms.

Last modified: February 4 2014.


1 http://www.afjn.org/focus-campaigns/other/other-continental-issues/82-general/541-the-ritual-of-military-coup-in-mauritania.html

2 http://www.bti-project.de/uploads/tx_jpdownloads/BTI_2014_Mauritania.pdf

3 See pages 259-259 on Mauritania: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/210740.pdf

4 http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/mauritania/#note-146-5

5 http://www.unpo.org/article/16732#sthash.0HsY3PNI.dpuf

6 http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/countries/north-africa/mauritania/

7 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25065023