Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1987

Mali is a single party state in which effective authority is
exercised by General Moussa Traore, President of the Republic
and Secretary General of the Democratic Union of the Malian
People (UDPM) . President Traore assumed power in 1968 through
a military-led coup, and the military Government adopted a new
Constitution in 1974. Since then, under Traore's leadership,
the military has continued to exercise influence in party and
civilian affairs but increasingly has turned over day-to-day
operations to civilians and encouraged civilian participation
in the country's political life at all levels of society. In
1987 military officers held approximately 22 percent of cabinet
portfolios, and 20 percent of the seats in the party's Central
Executive Bureau. Military officers occupied 4 of the 7
governorships, 11 of the 46 districts, and an important portion
of lower-level administrative posts, particularly in the border
Mali maintains an army and air force, and the mission of the
armed forces is to provide both external and internal security.
The gendarmerie (paramilitary police) assists in the latter
effort. There is a presidential guard. Mali has no special
internal security force.
With an annual per capita gross national product of $190, Mali
is among the world's 10 poorest countries. It is landlocked
and lacks easily exploitable mineral resources. Its economy
rests on subsistence farming and animal husbandry, both of
which have been adversely affected by severe droughts in the
1970's and 1980's. Cotton and cattle are the major exports.
While its economic situation remains precarious, its population
continues to increase rapidly. In 1987 the Government
struggled to implement an economic structural adjustment
program but remained dependent on external aid.
The political and human rights situation did not change
significantly in 1987. Organized political opposition groups
are not permitted in Mali. However, in the context of
preparation for the March 1987 extraordinary party congress,
public party and union meetings provided arenas for citizens
to criticize government economic reform policies, corruption,
inefficiency, and acquisition of illicit wealth by government
officials and private citizens. The President appointed a
special investigating commission, authorized and endorsed by
the extraordinary party congress, to delve into corruption
charges in the Government and business. The commission has
extensive authority to examine documents and individuals. The
commission is not a party body, although its members belong to
the ruling UDPM. It submitted its initial report in November.
On the basis of that report, a special court examined 47 cases
against 71 persons accused of embezzling public funds.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
     a. Political Killing
No politically motivated killings were reported in 1987.
     b. Disappearanceppearance
No incidents of disappearance, abduction, or hostage-taking
were reported in 1987.
     c. Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishmenture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
The Government of Mali does not condone police brutality, and
has issued specific instructions prohibiting brutality against
suspects. However, physical abuse of suspected persons
sometimes occurs during police interrogation. Torture is
rare, but public beatings by the citizenry of persons
identified as thieves occasionally take place.
Prison conditions are harsh. Lack of resources results in
inadequate facilities. Prisoners can be sentenced to hard
labor, and they sometimes perform road maintenance work
Several prisons are located in isolated inhospitable northern
desert regions.
In its 1987 Report (covering 1986), Amnesty International
expressed concern about the harsh conditions at Taoudenit
prison camp. There is no evidence that any political
prisoners are being held at Taoudenit. Prisoners there have
been sentenced to hard labor in the local salt mine. Amnesty
also noted that it had received reports that eight persons,
who had helped a student leader escape the country in 1986,
had been held incommunicado by police for 10 weeks. Several
were reported to have been hung by their hands or feet and
denied adequate food and medical attention.
     d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Exile or Forced Laborrary Arrest, Detention, Exile, or Forced Labor
No incident of arbitrary arrests, detention, or exile, was
reported in 1987. The Malian judicial system is based on the
French model. Detained persons do not have the right to a
judicial determination of the legality of their detention, but
arrests cannot be made without formal charges. However, in
political cases, the authorities do not always follow this
practice. For example. Amnesty International received reports
that six persons arrested in 1986 in connection with alleged
student opposition to the Government were held for over 5
months before a formal order authorizing their detention was
issued. The students were tried, sentenced, and released with
all the time spent in prison applied to reduction of their
Malian law does not provide for release on bail, but detainees
are sometimes released on their own recognizance. Prisoners
are usually allowed access to a lawyer of their choosing.
Administrative backlogs cause frequent delays in scheduling
trials .
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited except in cases of
convicted criminals.
     e. Denial of Fair Public Trial of Fair Public Trial
New laws have been enacted to make the judicial system conform
to Malian life, but French colonial laws not abrogated still
have the force of law. The judiciary is not independent but
rather part of the executive branch. At the apex is the
Supreme Court with both judicial and administrative powers.
Trials generally are of short duration. While confessions are
generally not coerced, in practice defendants usually admit
guilt in the hope of receiving a more lenient sentence and
allow their lawyers to argue mitigating circumstances. The
verdict and sentence are rendered by a panel of three judges.
Once convicted, redress depends on an appeal for a presidential
pardon or a request for a new trial. The Constitution
stipulates that the National Assembly can convene a High Court
of Justice to hear cases against state ministers, but this
court did not meet in 1987.
Although the exact number of political prisoners is not known,
it is believed to be very low. The Government uses its
Independence Day celebrations as an annual occasion to grant a
limited number of pardons, including to selected political
prisoners. In September 1987, presidential pardons were
granted to five men convicted in 1976 for their role in an
attempted coup. In its 1987 Report, Amnesty International
stated that all "prisoners of conscience" had been released by
the end of 1986.
Corruption has become a major issue in Malian political life,
and has been discussed in a number of different public forums.
In 1987 the President appointed a special commission to
investigate accusations of corruption in 47 cases against 71
persons. The commission reported its findings in November,
and a special court rendered judgments in December. Nine
persons were sentenced to death, some in absentia, while those
who repaid embezzled funds were reprimanded or lightly
sentence. The death sentences have not been carried out and
may be commuted. While the commission mandate does not limit
its investigations to government officials, no private
businessmen have been arrested.
     f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondencerary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
Inviolability of the home is provided for in the Constitution
and generally respected in practice. Police searches are
infrequent, and warrants must be issued and recorded. However,
this occasionally occurs after the fact.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
     a. Freedom of Speech and Pressof Speech and Press
The Malian Constitution does not ensure freedom of speech and
press. The Government controls all Malian media, and all
journalists are government employees. General public
questioning of government authority is not permitted.
However, Criticism of specific programs, aspects of society,
or the performance of government offices and office-holders is
permitted. Prior to the 1987 extraordinary party congress,
the President himself participated in a series of public
meetings in which charges of corruption were leveled against
his Government. Academic freedom does not extend to criticism
of the Government or its policies. Private antigovernment
Malian publications are not tolerated, but international
publications, even those critical of Mali and its Government,
are readily available and circulate freely.
     b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Associationof Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Malian Constitution assures the liberty of citizens to
form organizations to protect their "professional interests,"
but, in reality, only selected organizations, such as urban
professional associations, qualify. Only the women's, youth,
and labor associations of the UDPM assemble freely.
The National Union of Malian Workers (UNTM) , composed of 12
unions, is the only recognized workers' organization. It
maintains contacts with international labor organizations.
The UNTM claims to maintain a degree of autonomy from the
Government, and it enjoys limited freedom to criticize some
government programs. Its Secretary General is a party member
but is not a member of the party's Central Executive Council.
Under close government monitoring and guidelines, limited
collective bargaining is permitted. Strikes seldom occur.
There were a series of minor strikes by teachers in December
1986 and again in December 1987 to protest repeated delayed
payment of government salaries. In contrast to 1986, when
several strike leaders were arrested, there were no arrests in
1987. Strikes for political reasons are illegal.
     c. Freedom of Religionof Religion
Mali is a secular state. Although 90 percent of Malians are
Muslim, most other religions may practice their faiths freely
and are permitted to establish houses of worship as well as
schools. Christian missionaries of various faiths enjoy
government cooperation. Proselytizing and conversion are
permitted, except in the case of the Baha ' i , who may practice
at home but may not proselytize or establish houses of
     d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreignof Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Freedom of movement in Mali is generally unimpeded, although
travelers are sometimes subject to police checks, especially
at night. These checks are legal and are used as a means to
restrict the movement of contraband goods. In practice, some
police probably supplement their frequently delayed salaries
by assessing ad hoc fines or confiscating goods. Malians are
free to change residence or workplace. Foreign travel requires
an exit visa, but this is easy to obtain. Repatriation is not
During the recent drought years, Mali both accepted and
generated displaced persons. Several thousand Malians were
repatriated from Algeria in 1986 and 1987. In 1987 Mali also
welcomed back over 100 Malians deported from France.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Gonvernment
Citizens have limited and infrequent opportunity to influence
their government and no ability to change it. The military
role in governing Mali remains important, but civilian
participation in the leadership groups has been growing.
Important policies and decisions are made by a small group
composed of the President, the party's Central Executive
Bureau, and the Council of Ministers. The memberships of
these groups overlap. Party congresses, such as the one held
in March 1987, are called by the President to consider special
issues. In 1987 the issues included political participation
and corruption, and the congress adopted a new National Charter
of National Reorientation of Public Life, calling on Malians
to dedicate efforts to economic development. One of the
mandates of the new Charter, and of the newly appointed
special commission to assist the Secretary General of the
party, is to recruit new leadership and encourage greater
public participation in the party, and, by extension, the
Within the one-party system, multiple candidates often contest
party elections at the local level, but for National Assembly
elections, which are held every 4 years, one carefully
selected party candidate runs for each seat. The National
Assembly debates proposed legislation after its acceptance by
the Council of Ministers and review by the Supreme Court. The
Assembly's role is to endorse the decisions taken by the
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government is generally responsive to calls by recognized
human rights groups. There are no local organizations to
monitor human rights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs handles
human rights-related inquiries from Amnesty International or
other international human rights organizations. The Ministry
of Justice, with jurisdiction over the courts, administers
Malian law. Mali does not play a major role in international
human rights forums.
Section 6 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
Virtually all Mali's ethnic groups are represented at the
highest state and party levels. Although some nomadic groups
such as the Tuaregs remain outside the economic and political
mainstream, Mali is relatively free of ethnic tensions.
Social and cultural factors place men in the dominant position
in Mali. However, women play an important economic role, both
in market life and in farming. While under represented, women
are present at all levels of the Government and in the party.
Two women are cabinet ministers, and one is in the party's
Central Executive Bureau. Three are members of the National
Assembly. Nonetheless, custom tends to restrict women to
"women's issues" when they participate in politics. The
women's union focuses primarily on establishing cooperatives,
improving health programs, fostering education, and campaigning
against female circumcision, which is still widely practiced.
Mali has a detailed labor code specifying conditions of
employment, including hours, wages, and social security
benefits. The minimum wage is approximately $142.50 per
month. Health and safety standards vary depending upon the
category of work, but there is limited enforcement due to the
lack of inspectors. Employers are required to pay into a
National Social Security Fund. While the minimum age for
employment is 14, with parents' permission children can be
apprenticed at 12. In practice, children in rural areas join
the work force at a much younger age, and workers in the
informal sector are not protected by laws against unjust
compensation, excessive hours, and capricious discharge