Mali: New witness testimony reveals horrors of protest shootings
Security forces fired live ammunition at protesters, killing a dozen
Bodyguards of Constitutional Court President identified among gunmen by witnesses.
The involvement of a special government antiterrorist unit should be investigated.
Dozens of witnesses to the shootings of protesters in Mali last month told Amnesty International they had clearly identified some of the perpetrators as the bodyguards of Manassa Danioko, President of the Constitutional Court.
The protests between 10 and 12 July were organized by the ‘Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des forces patriotiques (M5-RFP)’, that has been demonstrating against poor governance and electoral fraud in Mali since 5 June and has called for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The demonstrations coincided with the call for civil disobedience by the M5-RFP, but they were brutally repressed by the security forces across Bamako, the capital, resulting in the deaths of at least 11 protesters and bystanders, and dozens being injured.
Rumors of the arrest of the leader of the M5-RFP, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, led on 11 July, to a mobilization of demonstrators and residents in the neighborhood of Badalabougou. Some of them moved towards the house of Manassa Danioko, which is not far from Dicko’s residence.
“Rumors of the arrest of the leader of the M5-RFP, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, led on 11 July, to a mobilization of demonstrators and residents in the neighborhood of Badalabougou. Some of them moved towards the house of Manassa Danioko, which is not far from Dicko’s residence,” said Ousmane Diallo, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher.
“This led to the firing of live ammunition by security guards and by the police, at the protesters, causing the deaths of four individuals during that incident alone. A fair and impartial investigation into these deaths must urgently be launched, and those responsible must be brought to justice.”
Horrific accounts of violence perpetrated by police
Amnesty International interviewed 41 respondents, including witnesses to the violence, injured demonstrators, journalists, opposition leaders and public officials. Witnesses and families of victims shared horrific accounts of the violence perpetrated by police in Badalabougou and Sogoninko neighborhoods where protests were held on 11 July, along with the responsibility of bodyguards to the President of the Constitutional Court in the deaths of protesters in Badalabougou.
The organization also collected photos and video evidence of the injuries sustained by the protesters, of the impact of bullets on civilian buildings, and of the clashes between demonstrators and security forces, which all concord with the testimonies collected.
Several of those killed during the three days of repression were not involved in the protests. Fayçal Cissé, 25, was the first victim of the lethal use of force. He was a former madrassa student who was not part of the protest and was at a mosque around 300 m from the National Assembly. A relative told Amnesty International that he was hit by a bullet fired from the National Assembly, while he was between the ablutions area and the prayer room. He fell in the courtyard of the mosque and died subsequently of his wounds.
A 37-year-old protestor told Amnesty International how they were dislodged from the public broadcaster’s premises by security forces who started beating and injuring many of them, including women. They hit them on their heads and arms with sticks. They were dispersed by the security forces who fired live ammunition at the protestors, causing one death near the National Assembly.
Among those killed was Halidou Bouaré, 21. Like Sidi Mohamed Doumbia, Bouaré was working when he was struck by a bullet, fired by security forces.
One of his relatives, who witnessed the incident from outside his house, told Amnesty International:
“Halidou Bouaré was shot while he was at the carwash where he worked. He wasn’t demonstrating but since he was close to scene, he was hit by two bullets, one in the stomach and one in the shoulder, while he was doing his work. He lost consciousness while I was transporting him to the hospital. Blood was flowing from his mouth. He died at the hospital soon after our arrival.”
Violence escalated on 11 and 12 July
The violence escalated on 11 and 12 July, following news that security forces planned to arrest Imam Mahmoud Dicko after they had arrested several other M5-RFP leaders.
Amnesty International spoke to several witnesses who identified the bodyguards of Manassa Danioko, the President of the Constitutional Court, as shooting at protesters on the afternoon of 11 July. Aly Sylla, 29, was among the victims.
A relative of his told the organization:
“During the clashes with the police, Aly was shot in the head. Several youths identified the gunman as one of Manassa Danioko's bodyguards. He was with one of his friends who took pictures of the bodyguard and identified him He told the shooter that he took a good picture of him and that he would pay for this crime. The police tried to arrest him, but he escaped.”
I remember my son telling me Daddy, I cannot breathe anymore.
While Aly Sylla died on the spot, two other victims of the same incident died at the hospital from their wounds. One of them was Sidi Mohamed Doumbia, a 16-year old student who was at work in Badalabougou, repairing motorcycles when he was shot. He was hit in the stomach and arm while he stood at a good distance from the policemen and the demonstrations. His father recounted the heartbreaking experience of watching his son die:
“I remember my son telling me "Daddy, I cannot breathe anymore". … I could see that he was dying in front of me, while at the hospital. I don't know who fired, but the children around said it was one of the bodyguards .”
FORSAT is witnessed launching an assault on a mosque
The role of the FORSAT, a special government antiterrorist unit in the arrests of leaders of the M5-RFP and in the assault of the mosque of Imam Mahmoud Dicko is also of grave concern and deserves thorough investigations.
Several witnesses told Amnesty International that during an 11 July meeting of M5-RFP, hooded men in heavy gear suspected to belong to FORSAT arrived heavily armed in two unmarked public buses to disrupt the meeting.
“Other witnesses recounted seeing FORSAT members deployed to arrest the leaders of the M5-RFP on 11 July. They also were witnessed launching an assault on the mosque of Imam Mahmoud Dicko during the evening,” said Ousmane Diallo.
The deployment of the FORSAT to maintain public order during the demonstrations is a clear violation of its mandate. Another red line was crossed when the security forces fired live ammunition at protesters.
“The deployment of the FORSAT to maintain public order during the demonstrations is a clear violation of its mandate. Another red line was crossed when the security forces fired live ammunition at protesters.”
In an official letter dated on 14 July addressed to the Ministry of Public Security, the Prime Minister asked for the reasons behind the deployment of the FORSAT and who authorized it. While welcoming this development, Amnesty International calls for responsibilities to be clearly established regarding who gave the security forces order to fire at the demonstrators, when they presented no danger to them.
Medical student killed; journalist beaten
While trying to control demonstrators and destroy barricades, police also killed Mamadou Ba, a doctoral student in medicine, who was called by a health center to support them in their work.
According to a witness, Mamadou Ba was shot near the health center by policemen positioned a hundred meters further from the street. The bullet caused serious injuries and after losing much blood, he died of his wounds in the hospital during surgery.
In addition to Ba, at least four people were shot and wounded at that scene. In the same area a building was hit by the bullets of the security forces when they were responding to the demonstrations.
Koudedja Doucouré, a 22-year old woman was wounded by a bullet to the chest when she went to her window to inquire about the commotion. Amnesty International obtained pictures of bullet impact on the windows and walls of a building next to where security forces were positioned.
Journalists also came under attack during the protests.
According to one journalist, police officers prevented him from doing his job while he was capturing the evidence of the ill-treatment of three youngsters on 11 July. He told Amnesty International that when he refused to hand over his cellphone, policemen started beating him with a baton on his head, back and hips. They forcefully took his cellphone, deleted all evidence of their conduct, accused him of being a member of the M5-RFP, before eventually letting him go with his cellphone.
The UN Human Rights Committee states that “peaceful assemblies can play a critical role in allowing participants to advance ideas and aspirational goals in the public domain, and to establish the extent of support for or opposition to those ideas and goals. Where they are used to air grievances, peaceful assemblies may create opportunities for inclusive, participatory and peaceful resolution of differences. …A failure to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly is typically a marker of repression.”
The freedom of peaceful assembly must be respected by the authorities and it is outrageous that security forces, including special forces, fired live bullets at the demonstrators. No citizen deserves to die for expressing their opinion, or for denouncing the poor governance of their own country.
“The lethal use of force by the security forces must be investigated. Protesters and their families deserve to know who gave the license for the security forces to fire at them and their relatives, and there cannot be any credible solution to the political crisis if human rights are not respected and justice is not delivered,” said Ousmane Diallo.
“The freedom of peaceful assembly must be respected by the authorities and it is outrageous that security forces, including special forces, fired live bullets at the demonstrators. No citizen deserves to die for expressing their opinion, or for denouncing the poor governance of their own country.”