Mali had a constitutional democratic system that was upended in an August 2020 military coup d’etat. The country last held presidential elections in 2018, re-electing Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in elections that met minimum acceptable standards. Following the August 2020 coup, a brief period of military rule was followed by a civilian-led transition government in September 2020. On May 24, the transition government was itself overthrown by the military. On June 7, Assimi Goita, one of the August 2020 coup leaders and the former transition vice president, was sworn in as transition president. Repeatedly delayed parliamentary elections were held in March and April of 2020, followed by manipulation of results by the Constitutional Court. Parliament was dissolved after August 2020 and replaced by an unelected National Transition Council.
The National Police report to the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection and have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order in urban areas. The National Gendarmerie has responsibility in rural areas, including a specialized border security unit. The country’s defense and security forces consist of the Malian Armed Forces, the National Gendarmerie, and the National Guard, which all fall administratively under the Ministry of Defense. Operational control of the National Guard and National Gendarmerie is shared between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection. The National Guard and the army occasionally performed law enforcement duties in northern areas where police and gendarmes were absent. The responsibilities of the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection include maintaining order during exceptional circumstances, such as national disasters or riots. The country’s intelligence service has authority to investigate any case and temporarily detain persons at the discretion of its director general, who reports directly to the president. It usually detains persons only in terrorism and national security cases. Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over civilian and military security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, by both government and nonstate actors; forced disappearance by government forces; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by government forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious abuses in a conflict, including unlawful and widespread civilian harm by government forces and nonstate armed groups, as well as unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers by nonstate armed groups; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and the existence of criminal libel and slander laws; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early, and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting national and ethnic minority groups; existence and use of de facto laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.
With occasional notable exceptions, the government made little effort to investigate, prosecute, or punish government officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. The government did, however, make efforts to address corruption. Impunity for serious crimes committed in the country’s northern and central regions continued with few exceptions, in view of the government’s lack of control of 80 percent of the national territory. Cases related to massacres, forced disappearances, or other serious human rights abuses rarely moved beyond an investigative phase.
Despite signing the 2015 Algiers Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali (Algiers Accord), signatory armed groups committed serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Ethnic militias, formed to defend one ethnic group from other ethnic groups or other armed groups, committed serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, the destruction of homes and food stores, and the burning of entire villages. Terrorist groups kidnapped and killed civilians, including humanitarian workers, and military and peacekeeping forces. Investigations and prosecutions were rare because most abuses occurred in areas that the government did not control.