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TITLE:  MAURITANIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                           MAURITANIA


Mauritania is an Islamic republic.  The 1991 Constitution 
provides for a civilian government composed of a dominant 
executive branch, a Senate and National Assembly, and a 
judiciary.  President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya has governed 
since 1984, first as head of a military junta, and since the 
1992 election as head of civilian government.  Election 
observers concluded that President Taya's 62-percent majority 
in a four-way election was fraudulent.  Most opposition parties 
boycotted the subsequent parliamentary elections.  The 
President and the Government have strong military support.

The Government maintains order with regular armed forces, the 
National Guard, the Gendarmerie (a specialized corps of 
paramilitary police), and the police.  The Ministry of Defense 
directs the armed forces and Gendamerie; the Ministry of 
Interior directs the National Guard and police.  There have 
been reported instances of these forces engaging in human 
rights abuses.

Mauritania, with a population of 2.2 million, has a 
market-oriented economy based on subsistence farming, herding 
and a small commercial sector.  Drought, desertification, 
insect infestation, rapid urbanization, extensive unemployment, 
and a burdensome foreign debt handicap the economy.  Inadequate 
recent rainfall has contributed to urbanization, further 
straining government finances.

The major human rights problem continues to be the Government's 
failure to resolve the outstanding abuses of the 1989-92 period 
in which approximately 70,000 Mauritanians were expelled or 
fled and some 500 members of the military were killed--almost 
entirely African Mauritanians.  Hundreds more were tortured and 
maimed.  In 1993, the Parliament passed an amnesty bill to 
preclude legal pursuit of those responsible.  The Government 
has, however, paid pensions and compensation to some survivors 
and to some families of those killed.  Democratic institutions 
are still rudimentary, and ethnic tensions remain high, with 
many non-Hassaniya-speaking citizens continuing to feel 
excluded from effective political representation.

Although the Government has instituted some judicial reform, in 
practice, the right to a fair trial continues to be 
restricted.  Police often used brutal methods, and the 
Government continued to restrict political activity, seize 
publications, and discriminate on the basis of language.  
Prison conditions are harsh and unhealthy.  Societal 
discrimination and female genital mutilation remain a serious 
concern.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no confirmed reports of political killings, but two 
persons are known to have died while in police custody.  In 
April police reportedly apprehended Ibrahima Diallo, a 
Senegalese taxi driver in Nouakchott, on suspicion of robbery.  
He later died in custody; police claimed he died of a heart 
attack.  In September a young African-Mauritanian was arrested 
in the town of Nouadhibou for petty theft and died while in 
police custody.  Credible observers believe that police 
mistreatment was the cause of both deaths.  Authorities have 
investigated neither of these incidents.  There were a number 
of unexplained and uninvestigated deaths in the border regions 
with Senegal and Mali.

Authorities brought a police officer to trial for the 1991 
torture and death of a criminal suspect.  The court found the 
police officer not guilty, but ordered the Ministry of Interior
to pay a "deya" or blood money to the victim's family.

Extrajudicial killings from past years, primarily of 
African-Mauritanians, remained unresolved.  The principal 
example of such killing involves the death while in military 
custody of approximately 500 largely Halpulaar and Soninke 
military and civilian personnel; the military has never 
released the results of an internal military investigation into 
this matter and has not brought charges against those 
responsible.

In June 1993, the Government passed a law granting amnesty to 
members of the armed forces and police as well as to private 
citizens involved in killings and other abuses during 1990 and 
1991.  Lawyers representing victims' families concluded that 
the law rendered the case legally closed.  The Government 
provided pensions to some victims, as well as pensions and 
compensation to approximately 277 widows and families who could 
document their relationship to those who were killed.  The 
Government has refused the claims of approximately another 123 
women who could not prove their relationship to those who were 
killed.  Government failure to investigate and bring to justice 
officials who commit killings or other abuses has created a 
climate of impunity.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits the use of torture and other forms of cruel 
or inhuman punishment, but the police continue on occasion to  
beat criminal suspects while in custody.  Authorities rarely 
tried or punished persons suspected of committing such abuses.  
There are credible reports that several of the 60 Islamic 
persons detained in September and October were tortured.  There 
has been no public investigation of the detainees' claims.

Security forces, assigned to forestall cross-border raids in 
the Guidimaka area near the Malian and Senegalese borders, have 
reportedly resorted to brutality when questioning people.

Prison conditions do not meet minimum humanitarian standards.  
There is severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and 
inadequate food and medical treatment.  There were no reports 
of suspicious deaths among the prison population.  The only 
reports of such deaths were among the detainees in pretrial 
status cited (see Section 1.a.).  The prison in Nouakchott, 
which was built in 1960 for a projected prison population of 
200 men, now houses 700.  Observers report better conditions at 
the women's prison and children's detention center in 
Nouakchott.  At the Government's request, a French 
nongovernmental organization (NGO), Pharmaciens sans Frontieres 
(Pharmacists Without Borders) is coordinating international 
assistance for a large-scale project to improve overall prison 
conditions.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for due process and the presumption 
of innocence until proven guilty by an established tribunal.  
It stipulates that authorities cannot arrest, detain, 
prosecute, or punish anyone except as provided for under the 
law.  Actual application of these safeguards continued to vary 
widely from case to case.

The law requires that courts review the legality of a person's 
detention within 48 hours of arrest.  The police may extend the 
period for another 48 hours, and a prosecutor may detain 
persons for up to 30 days in national security cases.  Only 
after the prosecutor submits charges can a suspect contact an 
attorney.  There were credible reports that police detained 
persons incommunicado for extended periods without charge.  
Pretrial detention is extensive, and approximately 50 percent 
of the prison population has not yet been tried.  Some indicted 
prisoners continue to be released before trial without 
explanation.  Familial, tribal, or political connections may 
explain some of these releases.  There is a provision for 
granting bail, but it is rarely used.

In January police arrested the President of the Mauritanian 
Human Rights Association, Cheik Saad Bouh Kamara, searched his 
home, and seized his papers without an arrest or search 
warrant.  He was detained just under the 48 hours permissible, 
then released without charge.  Police questioned him 
extensively concerning his human rights activities and his 
contacts with an international human rights mission that had 
visited Mauritania just prior to his arrest (see Section 4).

In September and October, the Government detained for 2 weeks 
and questioned 60 people in connection with an alleged Islamist 
plot.  Although the Government said it had evidence against the 
detainees, some of whom confessed to subversive activities, the 
Government released them without charge.  Observers reported 
that in most cases police failed to obtain warrants.  
Occasional reports of arbitrary arrests and intimidation 
committed by security forces continued, particularly in 
communities along the Senegal River.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The executive branch controls and influences the judiciary, 
which is only nominally independent.  The Ministry of Justice 
appoints judges and subjects the courts to pressure in reaching 
verdicts.  This influence was evident, for example, in the 
court's ruling in favor of the governing party when the 
opposition parties challenged some results of the 
January-February municipal elections.

In addition to government influence over verdicts, the judicial 
system's fairness is limited by poorly educated and poorly 
trained judges who are susceptible to tribal and social 
pressures.

Moreover, Shari'a (Islamic law), tribal regulations and 
personal connections continue to dominate some judicial 
decisions.

The formal judicial system includes a system of lower, middle, 
and upper level courts, each with specific jurisdiction.  
Bridging the traditional and modern systems of justice are 43 
department-level tribunals staffed by Qadis, traditional 
Islamic magistrates trained primarily in Koranic law.  
Mauritanians seeking legal redress in civil matters must 
address themselves to one of these tribunals, which operate on 
the basis of both Shari'a and legal codes.  Three regional 
courts of appeal handle challenges to decisions at the 
department and regional levels.  Nominally independent, the 
Supreme Court is headed by a magistrate named to a 5-year term 
by the President.  The Supreme Court reviews decisions and 
rulings made by the courts of appeal to determine their 
compliance with the law.  Constitutional review is the purview 
of a 6-member Constitutional Council, composed of three members 
named by the President, two by the National Assembly President, 
and one by the Senate President.

In theory, all defendants, regardless of the court or their 
ability to pay, have the legal right to representation by 
counsel during the proceedings which are open to the public.  
The law provides that defendants may confront witnesses, 
present evidence, and appeal their sentences, but in practice 
these rights are not regularly applied.

Courts do not treat women as equals of men with respect to 
legal testimony:  the testimony of two women is considered 
equal to that of one man.  In addition, in awarding an 
indemnity to the family of a woman who has been killed, the 
courts grant only half the amount they would award for a man's 
death.  In addition, there are no female magistrates.

There were no reported political prisoners or detainees at 
year's end.  The International Committee of the Red Cross 
(ICRC) has concluded that there are no longer any political 
prisoners and discontinued monitoring.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The law requires judicial warrants in order to execute home 
searches, but the authorities often ignore this requirement.  
During the roundup of some 60 Islamists in September and 
October, as well during the detention of human rights monitor 
Cheik Saad Bouh Kamara, police searched detainees' homes and 
seized papers without a search warrant.

There were fewer reports of government surveillance of 
suspected dissidents than in previous years, although the 
extent to which the Government used informants is unknown.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, 
but the Government continues to restrict these rights through 
prepublication press censorship.  Opposition political leaders 
campaigned openly during the municipal and Senate elections in 
early 1994, and the government-controlled media provided 
access, albeit limited, to opposition candidates.  NGO's and 
the privately owned press are openly critical of the Government 
and its leaders.  Antigovernment tracts, newsletters, and 
petitions circulate widely in Nouakchott and other towns.

The electronic media (radio and television) and the country's 
two daily newspapers, Horizon and Chaab, are government owned 
and operated.  Radio is the most important medium in reaching 
the public, and the official media strongly support government 
policies.  All newspapers and political parties must register 
with the Ministry of the Interior.  The Government has not 
refused to register any journal but has on occasion temporarily 
suspended publication of some.  At times there have been as 
many as 60 independent, privately owned journals, although only 
around 20 have appeared regularly.  For the most part, these 
weeklies, published in Arabic or French, reached only a limited 
audience.

The Ministry of the Interior reviews all newspaper copy prior 
to publication.  The Press Law provides that the Minister of 
the Interior can stop publication of material discrediting 
Islam or threatening national security.  Although the Ministry 
did not excise material from journals or otherwise censor 
individual articles, authorities seized upwards of 20 
individual issues of many different journals.  One journal, Le 
Calame, was suspended for a month.  In some cases, the 
Government explained its action, saying certain papers seized 
contained false allegations concerning neighboring countries 
which could impinge on national security.  In other instances, 
the Government provided no specific reason for the seizures.

In September, in protest against the seizures, the seven 
affiliated papers of the National Association of the 
Independent Press (ANPI) suspended publication and demanded 
changes in the Press Law to strengthen press independence.  
These journals resumed publication in mid-October, while 
continuing to press the Government with their demands for a new 
press code.

The country's one university is government funded and 
government operated.  Academic freedom is generally respected, 
and there were no cases in which the Government prevented 
professors from pursuing their research interests, from 
publication, or censored their lectures.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association, and for the most part the Government respects this 
right, although there have been occasions when it restricted 
public gatherings.  The law requires that all political parties 
and NGO's must register with the Minister of the Interior and 
obtain permission for large meetings or assemblies.  The 
Minister of the Interior, citing the need to ensure public 
order, denied a permit to the main opposition party, the Union 
of Democratic Forces-New Era (UFD-EN), to hold a march and 
rally to protest fraud committed during the January-February 
municipal elections.

Over 16 political parties and a wide array of NGO's, many of 
them highly critical of the Government, met openly, issued 
public statements, and chose their own leadership.  The 
Government recognized a number of newly formed NGOs, among them 
a new labor confederation, the General Confederation of 
Mauritanian Workers (CGTM), and the Professional Union of the 
Independent Press in Mauritania (UPPIM).  The Government has 
not yet granted some NGO's official sanction but allowed them 
to operate.  It has not yet recognized the Mauritanian 
Association for Human Rights, claiming that it appeals to 
specific ethnic groups (i.e., the African-Mauritanian 
community), and is a potentially divisive force.  However, the 
Government allows the association to function.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion does not exist.  Mauritania is an Islamic 
republic, and the law provides that all citizens are Sunni 
Muslim and prohibited from converting to another religion.  The 
Government prohibits proselytizing by non-Muslims, and 
Mauritanians are not allowed to enter non-Islamic houses of 
worship or to possess sacred texts of other religions.

The Government allows the small Lebanese Shi'a community to 
practice its religion privately and permits the expatriate 
Christian community to hold services that are restricted to 
non-Mauritanians.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation.

Historically there were few restrictions on travel in 
Mauritania's traditional nomadic society.  With urbanization 
and travel by automobile, the Government set up regular 
checkpoints on roads at which travelers are stopped and papers 
checked by the Gendarmerie.  Following cross-border raids from 
Senegal, the Government imposed occasional temporary curfews.  
There were no reported cases of persons being denied passports 
for political reasons.

Of the approximately 70,000 African-Mauritanians who were 
expelled by Mauritania or fled during the 1989-90 crisis, an 
estimated 55,000 remained in refugee settlements in Senegal.  
While many of the 15,000 Mauritanian Peuhl who took refuge in 
Mali during the same crisis have integrated into the 
population, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 
discontinued at the end of the year the limited assistance they 
had been providing to them.

The impasse for the 60,000 refugees still in Senegal remained 
centered on their demands that the Government recognize their 
Mauritanian citizenship before they return, repatriate them as 
a group under international auspices, return their land, and 
pay compensation for their losses.  The Government states that 
it places no restrictions on the return of those expelled, and 
continues to encourage a gradual, case-by-case repatriation; 
some refugees have returned in this manner.  However, the 
Government has so far failed to set up clear administrative 
procedures for expellees wishing to obtain confirmation of 
their citizenship and associated rights.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides citizens with this right, but the 
Government circumscribes it in practice.  The 1992 multiparty 
election of a civilian President ended 14 years of military 
rule, but both the opposition and international observers 
concluded that the elections were fraudulent.  Moreover, the 
military continued to provide strong support to the regime, and 
some previous Military Council members, in addition to 
President Taya, remained in positions of power within the 
Government and armed forces.

Because the major opposition parties, including the Union of 
Democratic Forces-New Era (UDF-EN), boycotted the 1992 National 
Assembly elections, the President's party, the Republican, 
Democratic and Social Party (PRDS), dominates the General 
Assembly, holding 66 seats of 79.  The PRDS and opposition 
political parties, as well as independent candidates, 
participated in the 1994 Senatorial elections, and PRDS 
candidates won all but 1 of the 18 seats at stake.  Both the 
opposition and the government parties committed fraud during 
the 1994 elections.  Municipal councils elected the Senators by 
indirect vote.

Women have the right to vote, but few are active in political 
parties.  There were seven women in senior government 
positions, including one Cabinet-level post.  There is one 
elected woman senator and one mayor.

Black Mauritanians are underrepresented in senior government 
positions.  Of 20 Cabinet ministers, 3 are Black Maurs, 3 are 
Pulaars, and 1 is Soninke.  The other ministers are White Maurs.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are two human rights organizations in Mauritania, one of 
which is the Mauritanian League for Human Rights, an officially 
recognized body.  The League has occasionally played a 
mediating role between the Government and representatives of 
the refugees in Senegal and victims of the 1990-91 military 
purge.  A second and as yet unrecognized organization, the 
Mauritanian Human Rights Association (AMDH), while not 
affiliated with the opposition, has many opposition members.  
It has been more critical of the Government than the League, 
particularly on the unresolved abuses of the 1989-91 period.  
The AMDH called on the Government to be more forthcoming in 
addressing the vestiges of slavery (see Section 6.c.).

In January the London-based International League for Human 
Rights and the French human rights group, Agir Ensemble, 
jointly visited Mauritania.  Government officials met with 
representatives of the League, but refused to meet with the 
representatives of Agir Ensemble, which had previously issued a 
report highly critical of the Government's human rights 
record.  Shortly after the group's departure, police 
apprehended the President of the AMDH and questioned about his 
international contacts, particularly those with Agir Ensemble 
(see Section 1.d.).

Although the Government facilitated regular visits by the 
International Labor Organization and the ICRC, it remained 
selective in its approach to NGO's and international 
organizations.  The Government asked Pharmaciens sans 
Frontieres to coordinate international assistance to improve 
prison conditions (see Section 1.c.).  As in previous years, 
the Government and the U.S.-based Africa Watch, which has 
published articles strongly critical of the Government's human 
rights record, could not agree on the terms for a visit to 
Mauritania.  Africa Watch sought written government guarantees 
concerning freedom of movemen, and unimpeded access to 
Mauritanians; the Government would only give oral assurances.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equality before the law for all 
citizens, regardless of race, national origin, sex, or social 
status, and prohibits racially or ethnically based propaganda.  
In practice, the Government often accords these rights on the 
basis of ethnic and tribal affiliation, social status, and 
political ties.

     Women

Women have legal rights to property and child custody and, 
among the more modern and urbanized population, these rights 
are recognized.  In theory, marriage and divorce do not require 
the woman's consent.  Polygyny exists and, as sanctioned by the 
teachings of Islam, a woman does not have the right to refuse 
her husband's wish to marry additional wives.  In practice, 
polygyny and arranged marriages are increasingly rare, 
particularly among the Maur population.  Women also frequently 
initiate a divorce.

Traditional forms of mistreatment of women continue, mostly in 
isolated rural communities, but these practices appear to be on 
the decline.  Such mistreatment includes forced feeding of 
adolescent girls (Gavage) and female genital mutilation (see 
below).

Resort to abuses such as wife beating appears limited.  The 
police and judiciary occasionally intervene in domestic 
disputes, but women in traditional society usually do not seek 
legal redress, preferring to turn to family and ethnic group 
members to resolve domestic disputes.

There are no restrictions on the education of women.  Few women 
attend university and while the overall literacy rate is 
approximately 34 percent, for women it is 21 percent.  The 
Government has a policy of opening new employment opportunities 
for women in areas traditionally reserved for men, such as 
health care, communications, police, and customs services.  
Women are well represented in government-owned radio and 
television, and many news broadcasters are women.  The law 
provides that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.  
While not universally applied in practice, the two largest 
employers, the civil service and the state mining company, 
respect this law.  In the modern wage sector, women also 
receive generous family benefits, including 3 months of 
maternity leave.

     Children

The law does not provide any special protection for children's 
rights.  There are programs to care for abandoned children, but 
resources are inadequate.  The Government does not enforce 
existing child labor laws; children often perform significant 
labor in support of their families' activities.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), most often performed on young 
girls, continues to be practiced widely among all ethnic groups 
except the Wolof.  For the most part, the least severe form of 
excision is practiced, although some groups practice 
infibulation, the most severe form of FGM.  Evidence indicates 
that the incidence is diminishing in the modern urban sector.  
The Government, however, does not attempt to interfere with 
these practices although government health workers try to 
educate women to the dangers of the practice and of the fact 
that it is not a requirement of Islam.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic and cultural tension and alleged discrimination arise 
from the geographic and cultural line between traditionally 
nomadic Arabic-speaking (Hassaniya) Maurs of the North and 
black African herders and sedentary cultivators along the 
Senegal River in the South.  Though culturally homogeneous, the 
Maurs are divided among numerous tribal groups and are racially 
distinguished as White Maurs (Beydane) and Black Maurs.  The 
majority of the Black Maurs are Haratine, literally "one who 
has been freed," although some Black Maur families were never 
enslaved.  The southern African-Mauritanians are the Halpulaar 
(the largest group), the Wolof, and the Soninke.  White Maurs 
dominate positions in government, business, and the clergy.  
African-Mauritanians are underrepresented in the military and 
security sectors.  They, like human rights groups, contend that 
this is based on ethnic and linguistic discrimination.

Ethnic tensions surfaced dramatically in the mass expulsions of 
African-Mauritanians in 1989-90 and the settlement in the 
Senegal River area by both White and Black Maurs.

Black Africans charge that the Government is misusing the 1983 
land reform law to allow Maurs to encroach on fertile land in 
the Senegal River valley which traditionally has been the 
preserve of black Africans.  The Government claims the land was 
underutilized and used by traditional landowners to maintain a 
feudal system of serfdom.

Language has been a divisive issue since Mauritania's 
independence and the establishment of Arabic as the national 
language in 1973.  Successive government regimes--both civil 
and military--which pursued a policy of "Arabization" in the 
schools and in the workplace have exacerbated interethnic 
tensions, putting non-Arabic-speaking African-Mauritanians at a 
disadvantage.

The Government has attempted to institute a flexible 
educational program permitting primary education in multiple 
languages:  Arabic, French, or one of the three African 
languages.  One result, however, is that in seeking admission 
to the university, students not having elected Arabic are at a 
disadvantage.  The linguistic debate and ethnic tension extend 
even to the language used in law school diplomas.

Overt tensions between ethnic groups have lessened since the 
explosive ethnic violence of 1989 to 1991, when the 
Government's extrajudicial expulsions and reprisals by the 
security forces were clearly based on ethnicity.  Nevertheless, 
hostility and bitterness persist among the Black Maur and 
African majority.  However, there is little cultural identity 
or political cohesion within them.

     People with Disabilities

The Government does not mandate preference in employment or 
education or public accessibility for disabled persons, but 
provides some rehabilitation and other assistance for the 
disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association and the 
right of citizens to join any political or labor organization.  
All workers except members of the military and police are free 
to associate in and establish unions at the local and national 
levels.

Prior to the 1993 amendment to the Labor Code, which repealed 
provisions restricting trade union pluralism, the 
government-controlled labor central, the Union of Mauritanian 
Workers (UTM), was the only labor confederation allowed by 
law.  It remains the major worker confederation and many 
workers still view it as closely allied with the Government and 
the PRDS.  The Government recognized a new confederation, the 
General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers (CGTM), which is 
not affiliated with any political party, although most of its 
members favor the opposition.  It has organized some new 
locals, working among the heretofore unorganized self-employed 
workers, and has attracted a number of member unions from the 
UTM.  The CGTM has protested what it characterized as 
preferential treatment for the UTM by the Government.

International trade union activity is minimal, but unions are 
free to affiliate with international bodies.  The UTM 
participated in regional labor organizations, and the CGTM was 
accepted as a member of the Ghana-based United Organization of 
African Workers.

The bulk of the labor force is in the informal sector, with 
most workers engaged in subsistence agriculture and animal 
husbandry; only 25 percent are employed in the wage sector.  
However, nearly 90 percent of industrial and commercial workers 
are unionized.

The law provides workers with the right to strike, and there 
were several strikes and partial work stoppages.  Most were 
settled quickly due to limited worker and union resources and 
government pressure.  Moreover, the law stipulates that 
tripartite arbitration committees composed of union, business, 
and government representatives may impose binding arbitration 
that automatically terminates any strike.

The Government did not petition the United States for 
reconsideration of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) 
trade privileges.  The United States had revoked its GSP 
benefits in July 1993 for failure to respect freedom of 
association or to take steps to eliminate forced labor, 
including vestiges of slavery.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides that unions may freely organize workers 
without government or employer interference.  Wages and other 
benefits are generally decided informally among individual 
unions, employers, and the Government.  However, the Government 
plays a dominant role in the wage negotiations and in practice 
limits collective bargaining.

Laws provide workers protection against antiunion 
discrimination and employees or employers may bring labor 
disputes to three-person labor courts that are overseen jointly 
by the Ministries of Justice and Labor.  The CGTM successfully 
represented workers before the courts in two cases in which 
employers had refused to recognize their employees' decisions 
to change their affiliation from the UTM to the CGTM.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Mauritania has officially abolished slavery several times, most 
recently in 1980.  Nevertheless, the legacy of slavery remains, 
particularly in its economic and psychological manifestations.  
Tens of thousands of persons whose ancestors were slaves still 
occupy positions of servitude and near-servitude, although such 
practices as coercive slavery and commerce in slaves appear to 
have virtually disappeared.  In most cases, those remaining in 
a situation of unpaid servitude do so due to a lack of economic 
alternatives.

Some freed slaves (Haratine) have either stayed with, or 
returned to, their former masters and continue to provide labor 
in exchange for room, board, and other basic necessities.  
Others live independently but continue in a symbiotic 
relationship with their former masters, performing occasional 
unpaid labor for food, clothing, and medical care.  It is 
difficult to quantify the number of persons who continue to 
live under conditions of involuntary servitude.  Estimates from 
various sources range from a low of a few thousand to as many 
as 90,000.  However, no definitive figures exist.

The El Hor (literally "the free man") Movement continued to 
pursue its agenda to eradicate the vestiges of slavery and its 
associated mentality among former slaves and slaveholders.
Observers report the existence of slavery among Malian 
refugees--both Tuareg and Maur--who arrived in the camps in 
eastern Mauritania.  Informed estimates are that 10 percent of 
the 80,000 refugees in the camps are slaves.  Efforts by U.N. 
workers in the camps to distribute food and other services to 
these families separately from their masters have met with 
strong resistance by the slaves themselves, who may fear 
retribution from their masters.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Education is not compulsory, and due to a lack of resources 
some 30 percent or more of school-age children do not regularly 
attend government schools.  Labor law specifies that no child 
under the age of 13 may be employed in the agricultural sector 
without the permission of the Minister of Labor, nor under the 
age of 15 in the nonagricultural sector.  The law provides that 
employed children aged 14 to 16 should receive 70 percent of 
the minimum wage, and those from 17 to 18 should receive 90 
percent of the minimum wage.  The Labor Ministry's few 
inspectors provide only limited enforcement of child labor 
laws; many people consider child labor laws irrelevant (see 
Section 5).

Young children in the countryside commonly pursue herding, 
cultivation, fishing, and other significant labor in support of 
their families' activities.  In keeping with longstanding 
tradition, many children serve apprenticeships in small 
industries and in the informal sector.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage for adults is approximately $67 per month 
(ougiya 8,300) and has not been raised since October 1992.  It 
is difficult for the average family to meet its minimum needs 
and maintain a decent standard of living at this salary level.  
The standard, legal, nonagricultural work week may not exceed 
either 40 hours or 6 days without overtime compensation, which 
is paid at rates that are graduated according to the number of 
supplemental hours worked.  The Labor Directorate of the 
Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of the labor 
laws, but in practice inadequate funding limits the 
effectiveness of the Directorate's enforcement.

The Ministry of Labor is also responsible for enforcing safety 
standards but does so inconsistently.

(###)


[end of document]

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