Trafficking in Persons Report 2011

MALI (Tier 2 Watch List)

Mali is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Within Mali, women and girls are forced into domestic servitude, agricultural labor, and support roles in gold mines, as well as subjected to sex trafficking. Malian boys are found in conditions of forced labor in agricultural settings, gold mines, and the informal commercial sector, as well as forced begging both within Mali and neighboring countries. Reports indicate that Malian children are transported to Senegal and Guinea for forced labor in gold mines and on cotton and cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire. Boys from Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and other countries are forced into begging and exploited for labor by religious instructors within Mali and across borders. Women and girls from other West African countries are subjected to prostitution in Mali. In December 2010, an INTERPOL operation rescued three Malian children being held in situations of forced labor in Gabon. Malians and other Africans who travel through Mali to Mauritania, Algeria, or Libya, in hopes of reaching Europe, are particularly at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Adult men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, are subjected to the longstanding practice of debt bondage in the salt mines of Taoudenni in northern Mali. Some members of Mali’s black Tamachek community are subjected to traditional slavery-related practices rooted in hereditary master-slave relationships, and this involuntary servitude reportedly has extended to their children.

The Government of Mali does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government acknowledged that human trafficking is a problem in Mali, but it did not demonstrate significant efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders. Although the government identified at least 198 trafficking victims during the year – 152 of whom were Malian children in prostitution – it prosecuted only three trafficking cases and convicted two trafficking offenders. Despite its ministerial approval in June 2010, a bill outlawing all forms of trafficking, including slavery, did not reach a vote in the National Assembly. Efforts to collect data on human trafficking prosecutions improved during the year, and in February 2011, the government took steps to streamline its anti-trafficking efforts when the prime minister signed a decree creating the National Coordinating Committee for the Fight Against Trafficking and Related Activities. The government prosecuted three trafficking offenses during the reporting period. The government has not prosecuted a case of traditional slavery since 1969, and it has not taken action on at least three pending cases of traditional slavery, which have been stalled in courts for more than two years. Therefore, Mali is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Mali was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan.

Recommendations for Mali: Make efforts to distinguish between human trafficking and the separate crimes of abduction and child selling; improve efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including cases of traditional slavery and forced prostitution, and convict and punish trafficking offenders using existing laws; investigate and, as appropriate, prosecute alleged trafficking offenses involving women and girls smuggled into and through the country for forced or child prostitution; enact legislation that prohibits and punishes nonconsensual commercial sexual exploitation of adults and the forced labor of any person and adequately defines slavery as a form of exploitation; train law enforcement to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and those in traditional slavery, and refer them to protective services; develop an improved system for collecting data on trafficking crimes and the number of victims identified and referred by government authorities to service providers for care; and increase efforts to raise public awareness about trafficking and traditional hereditary slavery.


The Government of Mali demonstrated limited law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the last year. Mali does not prohibit all forms of trafficking, though Article 244 of the criminal code prohibits all forms of child trafficking. Convicted child trafficking offenders face penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 229 of the criminal code criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children and forced prostitution of adult women, prescribing a penalty of six months’ to three years’ imprisonment, and pimping, which carries a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment. These penalties are neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape. Under Malian law, it is possible for victims of some trafficking crimes to file a civil suit in addition to pursuing criminal charges. Malian law may not adequately criminalize other forms of trafficking. Slavery is outlawed, but no penalty is prescribed for its commission. Article 242 of the Criminal Code, passed in 1973, prohibits individuals from entering into agreements or contracts that deprive third parties of their liberty. NGOs argue that this law, which has sometimes been characterized as an anti-slavery law, is inadequate to prosecute cases of hereditary slavery, which are not predicated on agreements or contracts entered into after 1973. In June 2010, the Council of Ministers approved an anti-trafficking law, which, if enacted, would outlaw all forms of trafficking, though it would not provide a definition of slavery. The National Assembly commenced debate on the bill in November 2010 but adjourned without voting on the legislation. Consideration of the bill is expected to resume in the April 2011 session of the National Assembly.

The government convicted two trafficking offenders during the reporting period. In one case, the trafficker was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for forcing a victim into domestic service; in the other, the convicted offender was prescribed an insufficient sentence of 20 days’ imprisonment for prostituting children. One trafficking prosecution, for forced agricultural labor, resulted in an acquittal in March 2010. The government of Mali recognizes two pending cases of traditional slavery, both of which remain stalled in courts for a third year; the status of one additional case filed in the same year is unknown. In June 2010, as a result of efforts to improve data collection and reporting, the government released data on four trafficking convictions involving forced agricultural labor, which it obtained under Article 244 of the Criminal Code in 2008 and 2009. The government did not provide information about the status of three prosecutions pending from 2008. Malian officials often chose to mediate informal out-of-court settlements instead of pursuing criminal investigations of trafficking offenders.

In March 2011, through a partnership with an NGO, the government conducted a two-day training for magistrates on prosecuting trafficking cases. There was no evidence of government officials’ involvement in human trafficking, though corruption is known to be pervasive throughout security forces and the judiciary, and evidence suggests that officials falsely denied knowledge of the existence of cases of trafficking. In 2010, a former slave was pressured by local authorities and the gendarmerie to withdraw a forced labor complaint from the courts.


The Government of Mali demonstrated limited efforts to protect trafficking victims in the last year. Authorities reported the use of an informal system for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as child laborers and women in prostitution, or for referring victims to NGOs that provide protective services. Due to its limited resources, the government did not operate any shelters for trafficking victims or provide direct aid to trafficking victims. The government referred an unknown number of victims to NGOs and international organizations for assistance, and sometimes provided in-kind support to these organizations in the form of rice, oil, and other foodstuffs, as well as a financial contribution of $2,000 to an organization helping domestic workers who may have been at risk of becoming trafficking victims. Authorities reported that the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, Children, and the Family rescued and repatriated 13 trafficking victims to Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, The Gambia, Senegal, and Cameroon during the reporting period. The same ministry helped repatriate 33 Malians who were identified as victims of trafficking in Niger, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo. The Morals Brigade of the police department identified 152 children in prostitution and coordinated with international organizations and the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, Children, and the Family to reunite the children with their families. In March 2011, Malian police rescued a Nigerian woman forced into prostitution in Bamako, extradited two alleged traffickers to face prosecution in Nigeria, and repatriated the woman with the assistance of the Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons. An NGO reported that community surveillance committees, organized by the government and international organization partners, identified 1,500 suspected trafficking victims traveling without proper identity documents last year, who were subsequently returned to their villages. The government did not report identifying or assisting any victims of traditional slavery. Despite persistent reports of a significant number of Nigerian women held in forced prostitution in western Mali, law enforcement officials did not take efforts to investigate these reports or to identify and rescue suspected victims within this population. The Government of Mali did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. There were no reports that identified victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked.


The Government of Mali made efforts to prevent trafficking during the last year. In December, the Ministry of Malians Abroad and African Integration launched a national awareness campaign to educate Malians about the dangers of illegal migration to Europe, including the possibility of becoming a victim of human trafficking, though to date there have been no reports of Malians subjected to human trafficking within Europe. In December 2010 and February 2011, the National Assembly and Interparliamentary Union sponsored workshops for government officials and community members to raise awareness about violence against women, including forced prostitution and forced marriage. In February 2011, the prime minister signed a decree creating the National Coordinating Committee for the Fight Against Trafficking and Related Activities and assigning specific anti-trafficking prevention responsibilities to it. The committee, chaired by the Ministry of Justice, met for the first time in February 2011, and was tasked with creating a national plan of action, mobilizing resources to implement the plan, establishing a common data collection system, publishing regular reports, conducting awareness campaigns, and promoting anti-trafficking partnerships. In a measure to prevent transnational child trafficking, Malian police provided travel passes for children – titres de voyage – which indicate parental permission for a child to travel with a non-guardian and assisted community surveillance committees to identify suspected trafficking victims. The government continued its implementation of a biometric civil registration program, for which it spent approximately $4 million, that has the potential to assist police and border officials in the identification of trafficking victims. The government took no visible measures to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The Government of Mali did not provide anti-trafficking training to Malian troops deployed abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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