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Mauritania - Military Doctrine

Under the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization, the National Police is responsible for enforcing the law and maintaining order in urban areas. The National Guard, under the same ministry, performs limited police functions in keeping with its peacetime role as the guarantor of physical security at government facilities, including prisons. For instance, regional authorities may call upon it to restore civil order during riots and other large-scale disturbances. The gendarmerie, a specialized paramilitary organization under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for maintaining civil order around metropolitan areas and providing law enforcement services in rural areas. The Ministry of Interior and Decentralization’s newest police force, the General Group for Road Safety, maintains security on roads and operates checkpoints throughout the country.

Police and gendarmes were poorly paid, trained, and equipped. Corruption and impunity were serious problems. Police and gendarmes reportedly regularly sought bribes at nightly roadblocks in Nouakchott and at checkpoints between cities. There were numerous reports police at such roadblocks arbitrarily detained individuals, often without probable cause, for several hours or overnight.

The creation in January 2007 of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb significantly reinforced the terrorist threat in the Sahelo-Saharan region. This group was created by the rallying of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in al-Qaeda. Its modes of action are multiple: attacks, suicides or not, attacks against the armed forces, kidnappings and assassinations of Western nationals.

Mauritania is a target of terrorist groups: murder of four French tourists in Aleg in December 2007, attack on Mauritanian soldiers in Tourine in September 2008, assassination of a US citizen in Nouakchott in June 2009, suicide bombing of the embassy France in August 2009, abduction of three Spanish nationals in November 2009 on the road from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou and three Italian tourists in December 2009 near the Malian border, attempted attacks against a barracks in Nema in August 2010, against the president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and against the French Embassy in February 2011. No attacks have been recorded since that date.

On August 9, the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), an active antislavery and “Haratine rights” NGO, reported that 13 of its members were tortured. These individuals were arrested and convicted in connection with a June 29 riot in Nouakchott in which several police officers were injured. The IRA complained that authorities arrested and held these activists incommunicado for nearly two weeks, the maximum allowable period of such detention under antiterrorism legislation. The IRA also stated that their activists were regularly tortured and humiliated while in police custody. Some IRA defendants testified they were not tortured, while others said they were tortured and named their alleged torturers. At their 03 August 2016 trial, Moussad Ould Bilal Ould Biram, the first defendant interrogated, said that he was tortured badly. Abdellahi Ould Maatallah, the next defendant to testify, also recounted being beaten and insulted. The arrests took place during Ramadan, and many defendants complained that police failed to feed them after sunset ended the day’s requirement to fast. The defendants, their lawyers, and several other IRA members said they repeatedly drew the attention of authorities and the MNP to these alleged abuses without any reaction from the prison administration, the MNP, or the prosecutor.

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