Amnesty International has warned that the West African nation of Mali is on the brink of “human rights chaos” due to gross abuses committed by soldiers loyal to the military junta against those who were involved in an attempted counter-coup in late April.
The army staged a successful coup in March that deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure ahead of the April presidential elections, claiming that he failed to address the Tuareg rebellion in the northern part of the country.
Later that month, the military handed over power to a civilian government, although it retains significant influence. In the chaos, Mali has been split into two – with Tuareg rebels and Islamic militants seizing control of the north, and the former military establishment ruling the south.
In May, the junta faced and defeated a counter-coup of officers and police who supported the ousted Toure. The soldiers and policemen who supported the counter-coup, Amnesty states, were arrested, tortured and sexually abused during their enforced stay at the Kati military camp for more than 40 days. At least 20 prisoners have since disappeared.
“The Malian authorities have a duty to investigate all the cases we have documented,” said Amnesty’s West Africa Researcher Gaetan Mootoo.
“Those responsible for these brutal efforts to avenge the attempted counter-coup must be held accountable for their actions. These vengeful acts fly in the face of Mali’s international human rights obligations and action must be taken to ensure the military junta doesn’t continue to operate with impunity.”
The Kati camp featured appalling conditions and ill treatment of inmates.
Regarding the missing prisoners, one inmate told Amnesty: “Around two in the morning, the door of our cell opened. Our wardens stood at the door and began to read a list. One by one, the soldiers called, went out. We haven’t seen our cellmates since that date.”
Prisoners were also abused sexually. One former police officer told the activists group: “We were four, they asked us to undress completely, we were ordered to sodomize each other otherwise they would execute us… During the act, our guards shouted us to do it harder.”