Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1986

Mali is a single party state in which effective authority is
exercised by General Moussa Traore, Secretary General of the
Democratic Union of the Malian People and President of the
Republic. In 1968 President Traore, then a lieutenant, led a
military coup which overthrew the leftist civilian government
of Modibo Keita. Although Mali in 1974 adopted a Constitution
which increased the number of civilians in the Government, the
military continues to have an important role in party and
governmental affairs. Military officers hold approximately
one-fourth of the senior positions in the Cabinet and party,
four of seven governorships, and an important portion of lower
level administrative posts, mostly in border areas. A
government reorganization in June further increased the
percentage of civilians in office.
Burkina Faso fought a week-long border war with Mali in
December 1985 over long disputed territory. Tension between
the two countries remains high, but a ruling from the
International Court of Justice at the end of 1986 won praise
from both countries, which have publicly vowed to abide by
it. Prisoners from the December border war have been
Mali is one of the world's poorest countries, with per capita
income around $160 a year. Landlocked and lacking easily
exploitable mineral resources, except for some gold, Mali's
economy is based on subsistence farming and animal husbandry,
both of which have been severely affected by drought in recent
years .
The political and human rights situation did not change
significantly over the past year. No organized political
opposition groups are permitted within Mali. The Government
has not, however, reacted harshly to opposition since the
student riots in 1981. In 1986, within the context of official
party or union meetings, it permitted limited criticism of its
economic reform policies.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
There were no reported incidents of politically motivated
killings .
b. Disappearance
There were no reported incidents of disappearance, abduction,
or hostage-taking.
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
The Government of Mali does not officially condone police
brutality, but physical abuse of suspects sometimes occurs in
police interrogation. Torture rarely occurs. Public beatings
by the citizenry of persons identified as thieves does take
place on occasion. Prison conditions are harsh and, owing to
a lack of resources, facilities are inadequate. Prisoners
perform hard manual labor, such as road maintenance. In the
past. Amnesty International has expressed concern over alleged
degrading treatment of prisoners in Taoudenit and Kidal prisons
situated in northern desert locations and appealed to the
Government to improve conditions. These prisons may contain
some political prisoners.
During an April visit to Senegal by President Traore, Malian
students at the University of Dakar led a strike to highlight
their claim that six students detained in Mali were being
mistreated and/or tortured. The students in c[uestion, who
were tried in November 1985 for "offenses against the head of
state", were represented by lawyers; two were acquitted and
four received suspended sentences. There is no evidence that
the students were mistreated during their incarceration before
the trial.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
No incidents of arbitrary arrests, detention, or exile were
reported during 1986. The Malian judicial system is based on
the French model and detained persons do not have the right to
a judicial determination of the legality of their detention.
However, Malian law does not permit arrest without formal
charge. 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 often cause delays in
bringing people to trial.
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited except in cases of
convicted criminals.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is part of the executive branch and therefore
potentially subject to interference. Trials are generally
short in duration. While confessions are not coerced,
defendants usually admit guilt, and defense lawyers tend to
argue mitigating circumstances. The verdict and sentence are
rendered by a panel of three judges. The appeals process is
limited to an appeal for a presidential pardon or a request
for a new trial. The National Assembly can convene a High
Court of Justice to hear cases against state ministers. This
Court did not meet during 1986. Several high-ranking officers
were arrested for reportedly inept command decisions during
the December 1985 border conflict but were subsequently
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
Inviolability of the home is guaranteed in the Constitution
and generally respected in practice. Police searches are
infrequent, and warrants are issued and recorded, though
sometimes after the fact.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Malian Constitution does not guarantee freedom of speech
and press. The State controls all Malian media and does not
permit public questioning of its authority. Criticism of
specific programs, aspects of society, or the performance of
government offices (rarely of individuals) is, however,
allowed. The national labor union enjoys limited freedom to
express dissatisfaction with some government austerity
programs. Academic freedom does not extend to criticism of
the Government or its policies. Journalists are all
government employees. A few have been suspended or fired for
"impertinent" questioning, but in general they have not been
subjected to other reprisals. Private Malian publications
expressing antigovernment views are not tolerated, but
international publications, even those critical of Mali or its
Government, are readily available and circulate freely.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Malian Constitution guarantees the liberty of citizens to
form organizations to protect their "professional interests,"
but in reality only selected organizations such as urban
professional associations qualify for this consideration. The
only groups which assemble freely are the women's, youth, and
labor associations of Mali's single political party.
Twelve labor unions with a total of 130,000 members form the
National Union of Malian Workers (UNTM) , the only recognized
workers' organization. Despite its party affiliation, the
UNTM claims to maintain a degree of autonomy from the
Government, and its Secretary General is not a member of the
party's central executive council. Within limits, collective
bargaining is permitted. Strikes, though permitted by law,
seldom occur. In November 1986, Malian teachers went on
strike for 1 day to protest nonpayment of salaries. The
teachers' union carried out a 2-day strike in December when
their salaries remained unpaid. The Government did not
intervene to prevent the strike. The UNTM maintains contacts
with international labor organizations, both public and
private .
c. Freedom of Religion
Mali is a secular state. The Government generally does not
discriminate on religious grounds. Although 90 percent of
Malians are Muslim, most other religions may practice their
faiths freely and are permitted to establish houses of worship
and schools. Christian missionaries of various faiths enjoy
government cooperation and are free to proselytize. Religious
conversion is permitted, except to the Baha ' i , who are free to
practice their faith in their homes but forbidden to
proselytize or establish houses of worship.
d. Freedom of 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 allowed by law, ostensibly to
restrict the movement of stolen or smuggled goods. In
practice, some police are known to supplement their frequently
delayed salaries by assessing ad hoc fines or confiscating
goods. Malians are free to change residence or work place.
Foreign travel requires an exit visa which is easy to obtain.
Repatriation is not restricted. Mali has both accepted and
generated persons displaced by drought and famine in recent
years. A steady stream of people — mainly nomads affected by
the drought — migrated to towns in southern Mali in 1985 and
substantial numbers remain there in 1986. Several thousand
Malians were repatriated from Algeria in 1986.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
The only legal political party, the Democratic Union of the
Malian People, is the supreme political entity in Mali. Its
Secretary General, Moussa Traore, is by law the President of
the Republic. The role of the military has diminished in
recent years but is still important. Five of the party's 19
central executive bureau members, 5 of the 17 cabinet
ministers, 4 of the 7 regional governors, and numerous lower
level officials are military officers. Important policies and
decisions are made by a small group — the President, the
l9-member central executive bureau, and the Council of
Ministers. The party congress meets only once every 3 years,
and the National Assembly m.eets twice a year.
Citizens thus have little and infrequent opportunity to
influence the Government. Within the one-party system,
multiple candidates often contest party elections at the local
level. National Assembly elections, held every 4 years,
generally present a single candidate selected by the party for
each seat, although in theory all party members are eligible
to run for election. The National Assembly debates proposed
legislation after its acceptance by the Council of Ministers
and review by the Supreme Court .
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Government of Mali has been generally responsive to calls
by recognized groups such as Amnesty International to correct
reported human rights violations. However, Mali itself has no
local human rights organizations. The Ministries of Foreign
Affairs and Justice are charged with responsibility for human
rights issues. Mali does not play a major role in
international human rights forums.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
While the Government avoids use of ethnic "quotas," virtually
all ethnic groups are represented at the highest state and
party level. In local government, officials are assigned
outside their regions of origin. Although some nomadic groups
such as the Tuaregs remain outside the economic and political
mainstream, Mali is relatively free of ethnic tension.
Social and cultural factors assign a higher role to men that
women in Malian society, but women are making some progress.
Women are free to participate in the Malian political process,
and, while under represented, are present at all levels of
government and the party, especially at the local level. A
limited number of women occupy positions of responsibility in
most ministries. Two women serve in the Cabinet (Minister of
Information and Minister of Public Health and Social Services)
and one in the party's executive bureau (president of the
women's union.) Three women now serve in the National
Assembly. Notwithstanding this trend, custom often restricts
women to "women's issues" when they do participate in politics.
The National Union of Malian Women in particular promotes
discussion of health, social, and education issues and
disseminates information on the arguments against female
circumcision. Despite the creation of a national commission
on the issue and government disapproval, female circumcision
is still widely practiced.
Workers' rights are specified in the Constitution. Conditions
of employment, including hours, wages, social security
benefits, and health and safety standards vary depending upon
the category of work. Employers are recpaired 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.