Human Rights in Africa: Review of 2019 - Mali [AFR 01/1352/2020]


Security deteriorated significantly in the center of the country, including through intercommunal violence. Armed groups and security forces continued to commit abuses and human rights violations. Impunity for the most serious crimes persisted. The security situation severely restricted the right to education. Ban on peaceful assemblies was maintained in central Bamako.


notably with a multiplication of large-scale killings of civilians committed by armed groups and self-proclaimed ‘self-defense groups’, in the Mopti region. Cases of extrajudicial executions and torture by military forces were also reported by the UN. As of the end of the year, more than 200 000 persons were internally displaced, according to the UN (they were 120 000 in January of the same year).

International scrutiny

In December, the 'UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali stated: “The security situation in Mali has now reached a critical level, with a limited presence of state institutions in some areas, unprecedented incidents of violence across communal lines, and increasingly deadly terror attacks against the security forces as well as civilians.”

Also, the mandate of the UN International Commission of Inquiry for Mali established on 19 January 2018 was extended to 19 June 2020. Its mission is to investigate allegations of abuses and violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed between 1 January 2012 and its date of creation.

Abuses by armed groups

Armed groups continued to perpetrate attacks against civilians, with at least, according to UN figures, 450 civilians killed during the year, including over 150 children in the first six months. According to the UN, during the first semester, at least 250 civilians were killed in the Mopti region. Between 1 October and 30 December, 200 civilians were killed, 96 injured, and 90 abducted. In that period, more than 85 per cent of deadly attacks against civilians took place in Mopti Region.

According to the UN, in the Mopti region, thirty-seven people were killed in the village of Koulogon-Peul on 1 January 2019. On March 23, at least 150 people (mostly Fulani), including men, women and children, were killed during a raid on Ogossagou. Thirty-five people (Dogon community), including 22 children under 12 years old, were killed during an attack on Sobane Da on 9 June. Eight days later, at least 38 people were killed during a raid on two villages (Gangafani and Yoro) in the Koro district, according to the government. On November 13, Malian soldiers discovered 20 bodies in the village of Peh, including some that had been thrown into wells.

Armed groups also targeted traditional and religious leaders and griots. Consistent media news reported that on 17 April the chief of Pissa, a village in the cercle of Bankass was killed by unidentified gunmen. On 22 June the chief of Hombori, Nouhoum Bah Maiga, was killed by unidentified gunmen, and on 19 July, a famous griot, Modi Djignandé, known also as “Niappa” was killed in Dialloubé by armed gunmen.

Extrajudicial executions

The Malian defense and security forces also committed human rights violations. The UN documented 17 cases of extrajudicial executions by the Malian Defense and Security Forces in several areas, such as Intahaka (Gao region) and Mondoro (Mopti region). They were also responsible for at least 4 acts of torture and ill-treatment.

Justice system

Fight against impunity

On 24 July, President Keïta promulgated a “national reconciliation” law, which notably exempt from prosecution persons who have committed or were complicit in the commission of crimes in the context of the “crisis which started in 2012”, except for war crimes, crimes against humanity, rape and imprescriptible crimes. The UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali called for a revision of this law, which could “prevent many victims of serious violations from exercising their rights to fair and equitable justice, to obtain reparation and to know the truth about the violations committed in the past”.

On the same day, President Keïta also promulgated a law extending the jurisdiction of the Specialized Judicial Unit to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Despite the numerous human rights violations and abuses committed since 2012, few trials and fewer convictions have taken place. Proceedings that opened in 2014 and 2015 against elements of armed groups for sexual violence are still at the investigation stage. The trial of General Amadou Haya Sanogo and others has still not resumed after it was suspended in December 2016. General Sanogo has been charged in relation to the abduction and extrajudicial execution of 21 soldiers.

International justice

On 30 September, the International Criminal Court confirmed the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery, against Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud. "Al Hassan", member of Ansar Eddine and de facto chief of Islamic police in Timbuktu at the time of the alleged commission of the crimes, is the second person prosecuted before the ICC regarding the Malian situation.

Freedom of assembly

A demonstration called by religious leaders was held in Bamako on 5 April despite its prohibition by the government. A blanket ban on protests in central Bamako had been enacted following the November 2015 attack against the Radisson Blu Hotel. The ban was renewed on October for another year.

Right to education

Since the beginning of the conflict, 1,051 schools were de facto closed (by October 2019) due to insecurity and threats which led teachers to leave, affecting 315,300 children. Schools and teachers continued to be targeted by armed groups. In October, local media reported the attack against several schools in the Timbuktu region by armed groups. End of October, the government announced that five teachers were abducted on 25 October in Korientzé (Mopti area) and released few days later.

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