Mauritania Table of Contents
In 1980 the government declared sharia (Islamic law) to be the official legal code (see Legal System , ch. 4). Since that time, many Mauritanians have criticized sharia for failing to consider environmental or sociological factors contributing to crime, for ignoring official corruption, and for authorizing particularly such brutal and extreme punishment as public whippings and amputations, which were held at Nouakchott stadium in the early 1980s (reportedly accompanied by cheering onlookers). Only in August 1984 was amputation halted.
Treatment of prisoners worsened in the early 1980s when both torture and detention without charge became increasingly routine. Moreover, friends and relatives of prisoners also became victims of harassment and repression. Foreign observers expressed concern about the treatment and well-being of those arrested, especially black prisoners.
In keeping with the tenets of sharia, the government moved to eliminate alcohol consumption (see Tenets of Islam , ch. 2). On October 2, 1986, the cabinet banned the import, purchase, and consumption of alcoholic drinks for Mauritanian nationals; Taya later extended the ban to foreign nationals, although diplomats from foreign embassies and expatriate technical assistants were exempt from the ban. Foreigners violating this law were liable to expulsion; Mauritanian violators risked forty lashes in public as prescribed by sharia.
Article 3 of the CMSN's Constitutional Charter of February 1985 stated that the CMSN had the power to grant amnesty, except for violations that carried sentences of qissas and hudud (see Constitutional Charter , ch. 4). Qissas was retributory justice requested by the family of a victim of a crime. Hudud was punishment prescribed by sharia for religious crimes that would be dealt with by civil courts in non-Muslim countries, such as adultery and drinking alcoholic beverages.
In the Taya regime, however, strict discipline was tempered with leniency. When Taya seized power, one of his first acts was to pardon most political prisoners, including former President Daddah, as well as five men condemned to life imprisonment for their participation in the March 16, 1981, coup attempt. Among other things, the terms of the general amnesty permitted opposition groups to return to Mauritania.
Data as of June 1988