Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 2.8 million (1.4 million under 18)
Government armed forces: unknown
Compulsory recruitment age: unclear
Voluntary recruitment age: 16
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182

The minimum voluntary recruitment age was 16 with parental consent. It was not known whether under-18s were serving in the armed forces.


There was widespread political repression.1 In April 2003 government authorities began a campaign directed against those it described as "extremists". Sixty of the country's influential, in particular religious, figures were arrested.2

In June 2003 members of the armed forces staged a coup attempt.3 In November 2003 President Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya was re-elected for a further six-year term. Opposition candidates claimed the vote had been rigged. His main rival Mohammed Khouna Ould Haidalla was arrested two days after the election and charged with plotting a coup. He and 13 others arrested with him were released in December. Mohammed Haidalla received a five-year suspended sentence.4


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 1991 constitution states that "Every citizen has the duty of protecting and safeguarding the independence of the country, its sovereignty, and the integrity of its territory" (Article 18). In its initial report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the government stated that all texts governing recruitment to the armed forces and police prohibited the recruitment of under-18s.5

However, in its report the government did not identify the laws and regulations that prohibit recruitment under the age of 18 and it was unclear whether the 1962 Law on the Recruitment of the Army (Law no. 132/62) was still in force. This law provides for two years' compulsory service. Every citizen aged 17 is required to register for military service, be medically examined and have their case considered by a review body. Those aged 16 may enlist voluntarily with parental consent (Article 7).6

Other developments

The Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern at difficulties in birth registration, at the high number of children involved in labour and at the persistence of discrimination against children belonging to minorities, children with disabilities and, more generally, girls.7 In response to an Amnesty International report on slavery, discrimination and other abuses in Mauritania, the authorities denied slavery but admitted there was social discrimination. The International Labour Organization (ILO) expressed concern at persistent reports of forced labour and child labour.8

1 See, for example, Amnesty International Report 2003,

2 Amnesty International, Mauritania: Where is Lieutenant Didi Ould M'Hamed?, 21 July 2003.

3 Amnesty International Report 2004.

4 IRIN, "Chronology of key developments in West Africa in 2003", 19 January 2004,

5 Initial report of Mauritania to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add.42, 18 January 2000,

6 Rachel Brett and Margaret McCallin, Children: The Invisible Soldiers, Rädda Barnen (Save the Children – Sweden), Stockholm, 1998.

7 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Mauritania, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.159, 6 November 2001.

8 Amnesty International Report 2003.


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