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Mali: alleged “disappearances”, executions by security forces

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Mali: alleged “disappearances”, executions by security forces

Mali‘s transitional government should not stand back as its soldiers linked to wave of abuses

BAMAKO, Mali, October 22, 2021 / Groupe APO / –

Malian authorities should investigate a series of allegations of summary executions, enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention by government security forces, Human Rights Watch said today. The United Nations Security Council, visiting Mali on October 24 and 25, 2021, is expected to urge the government to advance justice for serious crimes committed by state security forces and non-state armed groups.

Since September, at least 14 men last seen in security custody have “disappeared” or are being held incommunicado, informed sources told Human Rights Watch. The bodies of three men who were reportedly executed after their arrest by soldiers in early October were found near the military camp in the central Malian town of Sofara, in the Mopti region.

“Mali’s transitional government should not stand back as its soldiers are linked to a wave of abuses,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Security Council should use its visit to strengthen the government’s obligations to respect human rights and to properly investigate and prosecute abuses by all parties.

Human Rights Watch spoke by telephone to 22 people familiar with the recent allegations, including witnesses, family members of the “disappeared,” village leaders, local rights organizations, and foreign diplomats.

Most of the recent abuses have occurred during counterterrorism operations in central Mali against armed Islamist groups which, in 2021, were responsible for mounting attacks that killed dozens of security forces and civilians, including a massacre on August 8 of around fifty villagers near Gao.

Other abuses appear to be linked to the rise in political unrest following Mali’s two military coups in nine months. On August 18, 2020, military officers overthrew the government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and appointed former Colonel Bah Ndaw interim president; on May 24, 2021, Ndaw was overthrown by his vice-president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, who was sworn in as head of state in June 2021.

Since the resumption of armed conflict in 2012, Malian authorities have failed to deliver justice for dozens of large-scale atrocities involving ethnic militias and soldiers in counterterrorism operations. Progress has been made in prosecuting serious crimes committed by armed Islamists.

All parties to the Malian armed conflict are bound by common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other treaties and customary laws of war, which provide for the humane treatment of captured combatants and civilians in detention. Individuals who commit serious violations of the laws of war with criminal intent, including summary executions and torture, can be prosecuted for war crimes.

ldquo; Authorities in Mali should either bring those arrested before a judge and charge them with a credible offense, or release them, ”Dufka said. “Those detained without charge should be immediately released and the families of those forcibly missing should be informed of the whereabouts of their loved ones. “

Arrests, enforced disappearances and executions around Sofara

Village chiefs and witnesses said that from October 2 to 5, members of the security forces arrested at least 34 men in and around the town of Sofara. Two international security analysts told Human Rights Watch that the arrests were apparently in response to an increase in attacks by armed Islamist groups in the region, and more specifically, an October 1 attack on Marebougou, 30 kilometers away.

In an October 13 statement, the Malian army acknowledged some of the arrests, noting that “22 suspected terrorists” had been transferred to the gendarmerie for investigation. Family members, witnesses and local community leaders said at least 11 of the arrested men were still missing and three men, believed to have been among those arrested, were found dead a few kilometers from the city. Sofara military camp a few days after their arrest. . Community leaders provided Human Rights Watch with the names of the 22 men in government detention and the 11 men missing.

A witness to the arrest of seven men in Sofara on October 2, most of whom are still missing, said: “At around 11 am, several military vehicles surrounded a small store near where many were living. families displaced by war. A man working with the military indicated who and who to arrest. First the shopkeeper, then one by one, others who were drinking tea, passing by, or had come to buy something. The soldiers tore their clothes to tie their hands and blindfold them, then threw them violently into the vehicles, which were already in 2 others, causing 9 in total.

A trader described the arrests in Sofara on October 5: “It was a market day, around 9 am. Soldiers flooded the market, some surrounding the animal market, others entered the stalls. It seemed that they were all stopping [ethnic] Fulani men – identified by their dress. I didn’t see them asking any questions. A trader said: “I heard the soldiers insult and accuse the men they arrested of being terrorists. They took dozens of men. They tied their hands and eyes with the men’s turbans, threw them into the army trucks, then drove back to their base.

Two men said they participated in the burial on October 11 of three of the arrested men whose bodies were found about two kilometers from Sofara. One said, “After hearing about the bodies, we organized a delegation to see for ourselves. After 25 minutes of walking, we found three bodies in the bush, two side by side and the other a few meters apart. We saw tire tracks near the bodies that were starting to decompose…. We buried them right there. A cell phone video that circulated on social media appears to show the three bodies described by witnesses.

Another mobile phone video that circulated on social media at the time of the October arrests shows the mistreatment and interrogation (in the local Bambara language) of a suspect by four men in uniform. The government statement of October 13 pledged to investigate the apparent ill-treatment, noting that the soldiers involved “have been formally identified” and that “disciplinary sanctions are already imposed on the perpetrators who have been made available to the police. national gendarmerie for legal proceedings ”.

A village elder close to the suspect in the video told Human Rights Watch that the man abused in the video, Hamadoun Diallo, 37, was arrested by soldiers on October 4 near Tandiama, a village near Sofara, and is still missing.

Earlier in 2021, Human Rights Watch documented other serious allegations of abuse by Malian security forces. On March 23, Boni-based soldiers severely beat dozens of bus passengers after finding suspicious material in the baggage hold. The bodies of at least 13 of the passengers are still missing and are believed to be buried in a mass grave near the Boni military camp. Soldiers from the same military camp executed at least seven other men in March and April, and in January soldiers killed eight men and made two more, including a child, disappear near the Mali-Burkina border. Faso.

Enforced disappearance of government officials

Witnesses, human rights investigators and two diplomats said at least three former senior government officials are being held incommunicado after their detention by the security services.

Doctor Kalilou Doumbia, 35, a lawyer and adviser to senior Malian political figures, disappeared on his way to a meeting at the University of Bamako on September 6, where he teaches legal and political studies. “When he didn’t show up for a meeting at the university, we started calling people along the route he would have taken to work, to see if they had seen anything. thing, ”a colleague told Human Rights Watch.

On September 10, a police commissioner based in the Kayes region of Mali, Moustapha Diakité, 38, disappeared after the director general of the police summoned him to Bamako. Two people close to Diakité said he was last seen entering the headquarters of the national intelligence agency, the State Security Directorate (DSGE). “The summons came from the DG of the police, but once there, Commissioner Diakité was ordered to report to the DSGE. Once at the DSGE, his phone was confiscated and since that day we have had no news of his fate, “said a source close to the family.

On October 4, in the Baco Djikoroni neighborhood of Bamako, several men in military uniform arrested Colonel-Major Kassoum Goïta, 46, director of state security under the administration of President Ndaw. A relative said: “At around 2 pm, they surrounded the house and forced him into a vehicle. Since then, he no longer answers his phone. We looked everywhere.

Informed sources said they believed the men were held intermittently in an unauthorized detention center in Soundiata Keïta military camp, on the outskirts of Kati in Bamako; in a gendarmerie camp in Bamako; and within the DSGE. Relatives of their families said the authorities refused to recognize the presence of the men in these detention centers and did not allow their lawyers access to them.

International law defines enforced disappearance as the detention of a person by state agents or their agents and a refusal to recognize the detention or to disclose the person’s whereabouts or whereabouts.

Under Mali’s two transitional governments, there were several high-profile cases characterized by due process violations, including the prolonged detention of suspects without charge and denial of access to lawyers and family members.

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