Extra-Judicial Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Sexual Abuse Documented in Mali Counter-Coup

Press Release
July 30, 2012

Extra-Judicial Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Sexual Abuse Documented in Mali Counter-Coup

Human Rights Organization Report Based on Interviews with Dozens Who Were Held in Official Detention in Junta Headquarters

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – In a new report today based on interviews with survivors, Amnesty International said soldiers in Mali loyal to the military Junta are committing brutal abuses against soldiers imprisoned after an attempted counter-coup in April, including dozens of cases of enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture and sexual abuses. The human rights organization documented the abuse during a ten-day mission to Mali this month.

Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International's West Africa researcher, said: "These vengeful acts fly in the face of Mali's international human rights obligations. Action must be taken to ensure the military Junta doesn't continue to operate with impunity."

The counter-coup pitted paratroopers supporting former President Touré, known as the "Red Berets," against soldiers supporting Captain Sanogo's coup, known as the "Green Berets."

In the days following the attempted counter-coup, dozens of "Red Beret" soldiers were arrested and taken to Kati military camp, 12.5 miles north of the capital of Bamako. The repression following the counter-coup was all the more violent since soldiers were not held in an official place of detention but instead found themselves at the Kati camp, headquarters of the Junta, in the hands of those whom they opposed.

The soldiers were held for more than 40 days in appalling conditions and subjected to torture and sexual abuse.

"The Malian authorities have a duty to investigate all the cases we have documented. Those responsible for these brutal efforts to avenge the attempted counter-coup must be held accountable for their actions," said Mootoo.

Amnesty International's 20-page report, titled "Mali: 'We Haven't Seen Our Cell Mates Since,'" details the enforced disappearance of at least 21 of the detainees, who were abducted from their cells on the night of May 2 to 3 and have been missing since.

One of the inmates of these disappeared prisoners reported to Amnesty International: "Around two in the morning, the door of our cell opened. Our wardens stood at the door and began to read a list. One by one, the soldiers called, went out. We haven't seen our cellmates since that date."

Amnesty International is also concerned about a number of soldiers who, while being treated for wounds at Gabriel Touré Hospital in Bamakom, were also abducted by the military Junta on May 1. Despite requests, Amnesty International has not been able to obtain the list of these soldiers or establish their whereabouts.

While held in Kati military camp, prisoners described inhumane and degrading conditions including 80 inmates wearing just their underwear crammed into a 16.5 ft. square cell. The detainees were forced to relieve themselves in a plastic bag and were deprived of food during the first days of their detention. Some prisoners were regularly taken from their cell for beatings and interrogations.

One prisoner described the following torture used to extract a confession from him:

"They asked us to confess that we had wanted to carry out a coup. They made us lie face down, they tied our hands behind our backs and then tied them to our feet. One of them forced a cloth in our mouths using a stick. We couldn't talk, let alone scream. They put out cigarettes on our bodies, one of them put out his cigarette in my ear."

In some cases sexual abuse was carried out against prisoners in Kati as well. One police officer said:

"We were four, they asked us to undress completely, we were ordered to sodomize each other otherwise they would execute us…During the act, our guards shouted us to do it harder."

In 2009 Mali ratified the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances, and therefore has an obligation under international law to make known immediately the whereabouts of all those soldiers and policemen who disappeared in the crackdown following the failed counter-coup on April 30. A list of these names is available in Amnesty International's report.

"The transitional government in Mali is failing in its task to protect the human rights of its citizens and this lawlessness cannot be allowed to continue," Mootoo said. "Malian judicial officials must launch an immediate investigation into these very serious events and restore stability to a country that has suffered immeasurably over the past six months."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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