Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see section 1.g.).
According to MINUSMA, for example, government forces in April or May summarily executed three individuals arrested on terrorism-related charges. The international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch documented the killing of 10 detainees in the central part of the country during the year.
Armed groups who signed the peace accord and violent extremist groups committed numerous arbitrary killings related to internal conflict. Approximately 165 persons, including several civilians, were killed during clashes between the CMA and GATIA from July through September. GATIA reportedly received equipment and logistical support from the government during this period. Terrorist elements, including AQIM affiliates, launched frequent attacks, killing civilians as well as national and international security force members.
Attacks by bandits and extremist Islamist groups increasingly expanded from the traditional conflict zone in the north to the Mopti and Segou regions. These attacks targeted government and international security force members.
Chadian members of MINUSMA allegedly killed civilians. In May Chadian soldiers attached to MINUSMA reportedly arrested several civilians after a May 18 attack by Ansar al-Dine. One of the arrested men, a herder, died in Chadian custody.
There was limited progress in the prosecution of suspects, including coup leader Sanogo, in the forced disappearance, torture, and killing of 21 Red Berets, including former junta member Colonel Youssouf Traore, following a mutiny in 2013. The case was initially brought to trial in December. Following a defense objection to the admissibility of DNA evidence, however, the trial was suspended until 2017 pending new DNA analysis.
There were several reports of disappearances.
Human rights observers were unable to verify the whereabouts of dozens of prisoners purportedly detained in connection with the northern conflict due to possible unreported deaths in custody, alleged surreptitious releases, and suspected clandestine transfer of prisoners to the government’s intelligence service, the General Directorate of State Security (DGSE). Human rights organizations estimated the DGSE held 60 unacknowledged detainees.
There was limited progress in the prosecution of the suspects, including coup leader Sanogo, for the forced disappearance, torture, and killing of 21 Red Berets, including former junta member Colonel Youssouf Traore, following a mutiny in 2013 (see section 1.a.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports that soldiers employed them against individuals with suspected links to extremist groups including Ansar al-Dine, al-Murabitoun, and the Macina Liberation Front (see section 1.g.). There were reports that Islamist groups perpetrated sexual violence.
According to MINUSMA, government forces tortured eight detainees and subjected seven to abuse between March and September.
Human Rights Watch noted allegations of torture by military forces, particularly against members of the Fulani ethnic group in the central part of the country. In one incident military personnel arrested 11 local Fulani following attacks in the Mopti Region during the first half of the year. According to human rights observers, three of the 11 died during detention at the Nampala military base, and others showed signs of torture. No charges were brought by year’s end against the soldiers reportedly responsible.
The case against a soldier who allegedly raped a 13-year-old girl in August 2014 remained open. The military released the suspect in September 2014 and, at year’s end, had not responded to requests by the civilian prosecutor to produce the suspect for trial. Despite the military’s lack of cooperation, the prosecutor continued to pursue the case.
There was limited progress in investigations into the disappearance, torture, and killing of 21 Red Berets in 2012 (see section 1.a.).
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.
Physical Conditions: As of September 8, the Bamako Central Prison held 1,445 prisoners in a facility designed to hold 400. Detention conditions were better in women’s prisons than in those for men. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Authorities detained persons arrested on charges related to terrorism in the high-security division of Bamako Central Prison and in Koulikoro. Authorities may hold arrested individuals for up to 72 hours in police stations, where there were no separate holding areas for men, women, or children.
During the year 27 prisoners and detainees died. The National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH), an independent entity within the Ministry of Justice, attributed the deaths to unhealthy prison conditions. Approximately half of the 27 died from heart attacks; the remainder died from malaria, HIV/AIDS, and dehydration.
Inadequate security mechanisms and a general lack of resources prevented authorities from maintaining control of prisons.
Prison food, when provided, was insufficient in both quality and quantity, and medical facilities were inadequate. Lack of sanitation continued to pose the most significant threat to prisoners’ health. Buckets served as toilets. Not all prisons had access to potable water. Ventilation, lighting, and temperature were comparable with many poor urban homes.
Administration: Prison recordkeeping was inadequate, and authorities took no action during the year to improve it. Authorities did not use alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders.
There were no prison ombudsmen. Authorities, however, permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints, either directly or through the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic, to judicial authorities without censorship to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Although prisoners made verbal complaints during CNDH prison inspections, prisoners filed no formal complaints due to illiteracy, lack of knowledge regarding complaint mechanisms, skepticism regarding the utility of making such complaints, and fear of retaliation. The CNDH, charged with visiting prisons and ensuring humane conditions, visited prisoners in Bamako Central Prison within one week of request. The CNDH did not regularly visit prisons outside of Bamako, and its last visit to a military detention center occurred in 2012. The government’s Directorate for National Penitentiary Administration investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions. Detainees had reasonable access to visitors and could observe their religious practices.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by human rights monitors, and human rights organizations conducted visits during the year. The government required NGOs and other monitors to submit a request to the prison director, who then forwarded it to the Ministry of Justice. The Malian Association for Human Rights visited prisons in Kati, Bamako, and other locations outside the north. Human rights observers with MINUSMA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regularly visited the centers holding CMA and Platform members. ICRC officials also visited prisons in Bamako, Sikasso, Koulikoro, Gao, and Timbuktu.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law generally prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. Nevertheless, government security forces and Platform and CMA forces detained and arrested numerous individuals in connection with the ongoing northern conflict, particularly in the wake of clashes in Kidal and terrorist attacks in the Timbuktu, Mopti, and Segou regions (see section 1.g.).
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Security forces include the National Police, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA), the National Gendarmerie, National Guard, National Police, and the DGSE. FAMA, the National Gendarmerie, and the National Guard are administratively under the Ministry of Defense, although operational control of the National Guard and National Gendarmerie is shared with the Ministry of Internal Security and Civil Protection. Police officers have responsibility for law enforcement and maintaining order in urban areas, while gendarmes have that responsibility in rural areas. The army occasionally performed domestic security operations in northern areas where police and gendarmes were absent. The National Guard has specialized border security units, which were largely ineffective. The responsibilities of the Ministry of Internal Security and Civil Protection include maintaining order during exceptional circumstances, such as national disasters or riots. The DGSE has authority to investigate any case and temporarily detain persons at the discretion of its director general. It usually did so only in terrorism and national security cases.
The National Police lacked resources and training. Corruption was a problem, and traffic police officers frequently arrested and released drivers in exchange for bribes.
MINUSMA’s mandate includes ensuring security, protecting civilians, assisting the reestablishment of government authority, and the rebuilding of the security sector. The mission worked to expand its presence, including through longer-range patrols, in northern regions beyond key population centers, notably in areas where civilians were at risk. MINUSMA’s mandate also includes providing specific protection for women and children affected by armed conflict and addressing the needs of victims of sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict. MINUSMA’s role extended to anticipating, preventing, mitigating, and resolving issues related to the northern conflict by monitoring violence, assisting in investigations, and reporting to the UN Security Council on abuses or violations of human rights or international humanitarian law committed in the country.
The French military counterterrorism operation Barkhane continued. The operation had a regional focus, undertaking counterterrorism activities in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger. Approximately 1,000 soldiers conducted counterterrorism operations in collaboration with FAMA in northern Mali.
Civilian authorities failed at times to maintain effective control over the security forces. Particularly in the north, there were many reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. Mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption by security forces generally were not effective.
A commission of inquiry established in 2014 by the Ministry of Defense investigated security force killings to determine whether they constituted violations of the military code of justice or of criminal law. The commission referred cases involving human rights abuse to the prosecutor general for criminal trial. By year’s end, however, the commission had completed no investigations into alleged human rights abuses committed by soldiers redeployed to the north.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law requires judicial warrants for arrest. The law requires police officers to charge suspects or release them within 48 hours. While police usually secured warrants based on sufficient evidence and a duly authorized official issued the warrant, this did not always occur. The law provides for the transfer of detainees from police stations to the prosecutor’s office within 72 hours of arrest, but authorities sometimes held detainees longer in police stations. Authorities may grant detainees, who have limited rights of bail, conditional liberty, particularly for minor crimes and civil matters. Authorities occasionally released defendants on their own recognizance.
Detainees have the right to a lawyer of their choice or a state-provided lawyer if indigent. Nevertheless, a shortage of lawyers–particularly outside Bamako and Mopti–often prevented access to legal representation.
Arbitrary Arrest: Human rights organizations reported widespread allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention. In many cases gendarmes detained suspects on DGSE orders and then transferred them for questioning to the DGSE, which generally held suspects for hours or days. The transfer process itself, however, sometimes took more than a week, during which time security services did not inform detainees of the charges against them. Authorities did not provide released detainees transport back to the location of their arrest, a trip that often required several days of travel. These detentions often occurred in the wake of attacks by bandits or terrorists and targeted members of the ethnic group suspected of carrying out the raids.
In the wake of July 19 attacks in Nampala near the Mauritanian border, the DGSE detained several Fulani individuals. Critics claimed the government had no evidence to support the charges and that authorities detained the individuals simply because they were Fulani.
On May 4, Bamako’s Court of Appeals tried Lieutenant Mohamed Ouattara–a paratrooper arrested in 2014 along with Amara Sylla, Souleymane Sangare, Dramane Traore, and Thierry Diarra–for allegedly planning to threaten the president’s safety. The court sentenced Mohamed Ouattara and Amara Sylla to five years’ imprisonment, acquitted Dramane Traore, and sentenced Souleymane Sangare to life in prison. Diarra still awaited trial at year’s end.
Pretrial Detention: The law provides for trial for charged detainees within three months for misdemeanors and within one year for felonies, but lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. Judicial inefficiency, the large number of detainees, corruption, and staff shortages contributed to the problem. Individuals sometimes remained in prison for several years before their cases came to trial. Approximately 70 percent of inmates awaited trial.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law allows detainees to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention in court. They were promptly released if they win the challenge, but the law does not provide for compensation.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the executive branch continued to exert influence over the judicial system. Corruption and limited resources affected the fairness of trials. Bribery and influence peddling were widespread in the courts, according to domestic human rights groups.
There were problems enforcing court orders. Sometimes judges were absent from their assigned areas for months at a time. Village chiefs and justices of the peace appointed by the government decided the majority of disputes in rural areas. Justices of the peace had investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial functions. These traditional systems did not provide the same rights as civil and criminal courts.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. Nevertheless, proceedings often were delayed, and some defendants waited years for their trials to begin. The law presumes defendants are innocent and have the right to prompt and detailed information on the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Except in the case of minors and sensitive family cases, trials generally were public.
Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or to have one provided at public expense in felony cases and those involving minors). When a court declares a defendant indigent, it provides an attorney at public expense and the court waives all fees. Administrative backlogs and an insufficient number of lawyers, particularly in rural areas, often prevented prompt access. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, access government-held evidence, confront witnesses, and present one’s own witnesses and evidence. The government generally respected these rights. Defendants may not be compelled to testify against themselves or confess guilt and may appeal decisions to the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court. The law extends these rights to all citizens.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
As of September 29, authorities had detained 474 persons in connection with the conflict in the northern and central parts of the country. Some of those detained were believed to be political prisoners. The government typically detained conflict-related prisoners in higher-security facilities within prisons and provided them the same protection as other prisoners. International human rights and humanitarian organizations had access to most of these centers, but not to detainees held in facilities operated by the DGSE.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations. They may appeal their cases to the Economic Community of West African States’ Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In cases of traditional slavery, there were reports that civil court orders were sometimes difficult to enforce.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
The military, formerly separatist forces including the MNLA, HCUA, and MAA; northern militias that shared interests with the government including GATIA; and extremist organizations including AQIM, the Macina Liberation Front, and al-Murabitoun committed serious human rights abuses in the northern and central parts of the country. These included arbitrary killings, abuse, and disappearances. Most military abuses targeted Fulani, Tuareg, and Arab individuals and were in reprisal for attacks attributed to armed groups associated with those ethnicities. Jihadist groups, the CMA alliance of the MNLA, HCUA, and MAA, and militias in the Platform, such as GATIA, held hostages and used child soldiers.
Government and French troops targeted terrorist organizations–including AQIM, Ansar al-Dine, and al-Murabitoun–that were not party to the peace talks or resulting accord, although they maintained links to armed groups participating in the peace process.
Ethnic Fulani (also known as Peulh) in the central Mopti and Segou regions reported abuse by government forces. According to Human Rights Watch, on January 8, soldiers allegedly executed two Fulani men taken into custody near Karena. Human Rights Watch also documented 20 cases of torture or severe mistreatment of detainees during the year. Most military abuses that targeted Fulani, Tuareg, and Arab persons were in reprisal for attacks attributed to armed groups associated with those ethnicities.
Attacks by armed groups that signed the 2015 accord were sporadic and localized for much of the year. In February and March, battles between different tribal groups in the Menaka area included attacks that targeted civilians. The most serious fighting occurred in July, in the Kidal Region, between CMA and Platform forces and resulted in the deaths of 165 persons, including civilians.
Terrorist groups continued their activities in the north and central parts of the country. In September the International Criminal Court convicted and sentenced Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi to nine years’ imprisonment; al-Mahdi was a member of Ansar al Dine who pleaded guilty to war crimes relating to the intentional destruction of religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu in 2012. Impunity for serious crimes committed in the north continued, however, including for crimes carried out by terrorist groups.
The government lacked sufficient resources to pursue and investigate cases in the north. Security conditions also inhibited judicial investigations in the north. In its December 2015 report, the CNDH criticized prisoner exchange agreements that resulted in the release of suspected perpetrators of human rights violations.
Killings: The military, ex-rebel groups, northern militias whose interests aligned with the government, and terrorist organizations killed persons throughout the country, but primarily in the northern and central regions.
Unidentified individuals or groups were responsible for many attacks. On August 7, unidentified armed individuals targeted and killed a family member of the mayor of Karena.
Intercommunal violence related to disputes over transhumance (seasonal migration) and cattle grazing occurred between Dogon, Bambara, and Fulani in the Mopti Region, Bambara and Fulani in the Segou region, and between various Tuareg and Arab groups in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal (see section 6).
Numerous attacks on MINUSMA peacekeepers resulted in deaths and injuries. On February 12, seven Guinean peacekeepers died as a result of an attack on their camp in Kidal. Ansar al-Dine claimed responsibility for the attack, which injured 30 other peacekeepers. On May 19, five Chadian soldiers attached to MINUSMA died and three were wounded when their convoy vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kidal Region. On May 29, five Togolese MINUSMA peacekeepers were killed during an attack in Sevare. August attacks against MINUSMA soldiers in the Kidal Region killed one Chadian soldier and injured six others.
Abductions: On January 7, AQIM forces kidnapped a Swiss missionary in Timbuktu; she remained in captivity at year’s end.
In May the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) took custody of two children who had been apprehended along with their father by Chadian MINUSMA forces in Kidal Region. The children appeared to have been beaten.
Following July 21-22 fighting in Kidal, CMA forces captured five civilians and GATIA forces captured four. Numerous reprisal attacks against civilians occurred in the two months after the fighting.
On September 2, unidentified gunmen kidnapped the deputy mayor of Boni; he remained in captivity at year’s end.
Child Soldiers: In 2013 the government and the United Nations signed a protocol agreement to protect children associated with armed conflict. The protocol established a procedure to transfer such children to an interim care center operated by UNICEF. At year’s end the interim care center remained open and hosted one former child soldier, while authorities reportedly had reunited the other detained children with their families.
With the support of MINUSMA, in 2013 MAA and MNLA leaders signed an agreement prohibiting the recruitment of children and allowing MINUSMA to screen their troops in September 2014. No subsequent official screenings occurred, and MINUSMA continued to observe children in the ranks of the CMA, the umbrella organization that includes the MAA and MNLA.
According to MINUSMA, between January and May, GATIA recruited 29 children.
Most children recruited were boys, but reports indicated girls might also have been recruited and later forced to serve as sex slaves.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Attacks on international organizations and peacekeepers occurred.
In April members of Ansar al-Dine kidnapped four ICRC workers north of the city of Kidal in retaliation for the arrests of several terrorism suspects by members of Barkhane, the French military counterterrorism operation. The ICRC workers were released the day after Barkhane freed the terror suspects.
On April 29, unidentified assailants attacked a Danish Refugee Council convoy between Dorey and N’Tillit, injuring three humanitarian workers.
Since 2013, when MINUSMA’s mission began, more than 100 MINUSMA personnel have been killed.
A July UN Mine Action Service report noted 279 IED incidents since July 2013, resulting in 119 deaths and 453 persons injured. The report noted 69 IED incidents during the first six months of the year, resulting in 40 deaths and 90 persons injured.