Mauritania has suffered two military coups in the last decade. In 2009, a year after the last coup, elections were held and the results maintained the leader of the military junta in power by a narrow majority in the polls. The 2006 Constitution, approved by referendum, reduced the presidential mandate to five years and imposed a two-term limit. It also protects the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly as well as freedom of opinion and thought. Despite a solid constitutional framework and democratic elections, human rights defenders in the country are subject to acts of harassment and intimidation, in particular those working on anti-slavery issues.
In 2007 a law criminalizing slavery was unanimously adopted by Mauritania's National Assembly. In 2011, for the first time, the law was applied by a Nouakchott court, which found three people guilty of the crime of slavery. However anti-slavery activists in Mauritania have been the subject of repeated acts of harassment and intimidation by the authorities. In 2011, several human rights defenders working on the issue were arrested and some of them sentenced to prison terms