(NEW YORK) – Dozens of civilians have been tortured, killed, and disappeared, including while in detention, by Mali’s security forces in the five months since the French army intervened in the country, Amnesty International said today in a new briefing.
During a research mission to Mali, Amnesty International documented dozens of cases of detainees being tortured or abused after being arrested for alleged ties to armed groups. The organization also noted more than 20 cases of extrajudicial executions or enforced disappearances.
“The Malian security forces’ human rights record since January is, simply, appalling,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher, who joined the Amnesty team in Mali in May and June. “They continue to violate human rights with apparently no fear of being held accountable.”
Amnesty issued its report, Mali: Preliminary Findings of a Four-Week Mission. Serious Human Rights Abuses, ahead of the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali next month. The organization said it was also concerned that the French military, as well as West African (AFISMA) troops – including forces from Chad and Niger – handed over prisoners to the Malian authorities when they knew or should have known the detainees were at real risk of being tortured or ill-treated.
Among the cases Amnesty documented were the killings of Mohamed Lemine and Mohamed Tidjani, who were arrested by Malian security forces on January 28 – the day French and Malian armies first entered Timbuktu. Their bodies were found a few days later and a relative told Amnesty International: “Both wore the same clothes and shoes they had on the day of their arrest, Mohamed Lemine had a white boubou (robe) and black pants while his friend was wearing a boubou.”
The Amnesty delegation was able to speak to more than 80 of the 200 detainees held in the capital Bamako, most of them charged with acts of terrorism and other offenses. Many said they were tortured or ill-treated, while others were reportedly denied medical treatment. A number had burn marks, cuts, and scars across their bodies – including on their backs, chests, and ears. At least five detainees died in the facility in April 2013, most of them apparently the result of the appalling conditions and lack of medical care.
Akassane Ag Hanina was arrested in Timbuktu and arrived at Bamako’s Maison centrale d’arrêt on April 4, where he died seven days later. Before his death, he told other detainees he had been beaten up by the military in Timbuktu.
One of Ag Hanina’s co-detainees told Amnesty International: “He told the prison guards that he was ill but never got any medical treatment. The night before he died, we asked for help, but no one came until the morning. When they arrived, he was dead.”
When Amnesty International visited the detention center, several child soldiers – some as young as 13 – were being held with adults.
The authorities in Mali recognized that some human rights violations had been committed and said investigations were being carried out, but so far no one has been brought to justice.
“Ensuring that all those responsible for human rights abuses face justice will not be an easy task but it’s the key to a lasting stabilization and rebirth of a country torn apart for more than 18 months,” said Mootoo. “In the run-up to the deployment of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Mali, it is essential to ensure that the Malian army and any other armed forces respect and protect human rights so people living in the north of the country can be reassured they will be safe.”
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.