“Mauritania has harsh laws making homosexual acts a crime ostensibly punishable by death; however, these laws have never been applied,” according to the official summary of a U.S. Department of State cable released by WikiLeaks. It continues: “Mauritanian society is very conservative in regards to homosexuality with recognized homosexuals keeping a low profile”
The cable also states:
As an Islamic Republic, Shari’a serves as a foundation in Mauritanian law particularly as it relates to social issues. Mauritania is officially among the handful of countries that makes homosexual acts between males punishable by death under Section 304 of the Penal Code of 1999. Mauritanians note that the death penalty provisions allowed in Mauritanian law have not been applied for any crime — including murder — for decades.
In practice, the Mission is aware of no case ever being prosecuted under the anti-homosexual laws. Harassment arrests have been reported to apply pressure on individuals engaged in commercial disputes. Because of the Islamic requirement for the “crime” to be witnessed by four witnesses, conviction, even if sought, would be nearly impossible.
There are no efforts underway either to repeal the anti-homosexual laws or, conversely, force their stricter application.