Hundreds of civilians were killed by the military and armed groups, including in extrajudicial executions, in the context of the armed conflict. Violence and discrimination based on social status continued. Government critics and journalists faced threats, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and prosecution. Detainees were denied medical treatment.
In January, ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Mali after the latter made a unilateral decision to extend the political transition phase, which had followed the 2020 coup. Sanctions were lifted in July following a new transitional roadmap which scheduled elections for March 2024.
The deployment of personnel, allegedly from the Russian Wagner Group, a private military company, was denounced by the EU and others. The Malian authorities described the personnel as “military instructors”. The EU Training Mission suspended its operation in May, and Mali withdrew from the Group of Five for the Sahel in June. The French military operation ended, after nine years, in August.
In May, the authorities said they had thwarted a coup d’état and arrested 10 political and military figures. In July, 49 Ivorian soldiers supporting the German contingent of the UN Integrated and Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were arrested and charged with “attempting to undermine state security”.
Violations of international humanitarian law
In March, the Islamic State in the Sahel (ISS) launched a deadly offensive in the Ménaka and Gao regions, fighting elements of the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) and the Imghad Tuareg Self-Defense Group and Allies (GATIA).1 Indiscriminate ISS attacks against the villages of Tamalat, Inchinane, Emis-Emis and Anderamboukane targeted combatants and civilians alike. Hundreds of civilians were killed by the ISS and over 73,000 people had fled to Ménaka city by October, according to the UN.
Between May and September, Katiba Serma combatants blockaded the road linking the towns of Boni, Douentza, Hombori and Gossi to deter local communities from “collaborating” with the army, and forcing traders to rely on military escorts. On 2 August, 19 trucks carrying goods were attacked and burned by the armed group in Hombori, while awaiting an armed escort.
On 18 June, alleged members of the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) attacked the villages of Diallassagou, Dianweli and Dessagou in the Bankass Cercle, resulting in approximately 130 deaths, mostly civilian, according to the government.
In September, after the ISS dislodged the GATIA and the MSA from Talataye, Gao region, they killed dozens of civilians, according to media reports, and burned houses and the market, all of which amounted to war crimes. The town was left deserted.
Armed forces and their allies
MINUSMA, the media and NGOs documented hundreds of extrajudicial executions by the army and its allies in the context of “Operation Keletigui” since January.
On 3 January, the army allegedly killed seven Mauritanian civilians in Guiré, Nara region, during a “clean-up” operation. The Malian and Mauritanian authorities established a joint investigation into the incident in March.
On 27 January, army officers arrested and extrajudicially executed 14 residents of Tonou, Mopti region, including the village chief, after an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded on the outskirts of the village, killing two soldiers and wounded five others.
In February, 21 traders in Niono town, Ségou region were forcibly disappeared during an army patrol. Soon afterwards, on 2 March, local villagers found 36 burnt corpses near Danguèrè-Wotoro, near Niono. Some of them were bound and blindfolded. Local associations and civil society organizations blamed the army for the killings.
After a skirmish with GSIM members, the army with the support of foreign military personnel, besieged Moura, Mopti region, between 27 and 31 March. Hundreds of men from Moura and neighbouring villages, who were attending the weekly market, were divided into groups for interrogation. Hundreds were then extrajudicially executed.2 On 1 April, the government announced, in reference to the incident, that 203 “jihadists” had been killed and 51 individuals arrested during an operation in Moura. Several days later, they announced that the Mopti military court would investigate the incident. The army denied MINUSMA investigators access to Moura.
On 19 April the army, accompanied by foreign military personnel, killed at least 50 civilians and arrested around 611 others on market day in Hombori, after an IED had killed one soldier and injured two others. According to MINUSMA, they were detained in the Hombori army camp and allegedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Days later, the army released 548 of them and transferred 36 others to the Sévaré military camp. After armed groups attacked army camps in Sévaré, Niono and Bapho, 20 of the 27 detainees who had remained in Hombori were extrajudicially executed by one soldier, according to government and UN forces.
In September the army, accompanied by alleged foreign military personnel and Dozo hunters, attacked the villages of Nia Ouro, Tandiama and Kankele, Mopti region. At least 12 women from Nia Ouro were raped, according to MINUSMA, while others were forced to undress and were photographed naked by the foreign fighters.
Investigations launched into crimes committed by the army against civilians since 2019 remained stalled in most cases.3
In July, the mutilated body of 69-year-old Diogou Sidibé was found on her farmland in Lany Mody village, Kayes region. Her murder was linked to her refusal to be subjected to discriminatory practices used against people based on their work and descent. In August, 18 people were arrested for her murder.
The detention of senior public servants Kalilou Doumbia and Moustapha Diakité continued despite an investigative judge dismissing all charges against them in June. They had been held since September 2021, including for two months in illegal detention premises, allegedly in General State Security Directorate custody.
Freedom of expression
In January, Etienne Fakaba Sissoko, an economist who was critical of the transitional authorities, was arrested after he spoke on TV about the ECOWAS sanctions in Mali. He was provisionally released in June and forbidden from leaving the country.
In March, the authorities suspended Radio France Internationale and France 24 after they published articles about torture and unlawful killings by the army.
In April, the authorities accused Oumar Mariko, a politician, of defaming the armed forces after he denounced extrajudicial executions in Moura. After months in hiding, he reappeared in Moscow from where he denounced the government’s attempts to assassinate him.
In May, Sara Yara and sisters Faty and Amy Cissé were arrested and accused of making defamatory remarks on Facebook about the director of the National Agency for State Security. They were provisionally released from the Bollé prison on 3 September.
In June and November, journalist Malick Konaté was subjected to threats, intimidation and damage to his property by unidentified men, apparently in connection with his views on the transitional government and his work on abuses carried out by agents of the Wagner Group.
In November, the Higher Communications Authority (HAC) suspended Joliba TV station for two months for “serious and repeated breaches and violations of the code of ethics for journalists”. The station had criticized the transitional government and the HAC’s lack of response to the harassment and intimidation of journalists.
Inhumane detention conditions
In March, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, a former prime minister who had been arrested in August 2021 for alleged corruption, died in custody after several calls by his family and doctor for his medical evacuation were ignored. The authorities refused to conduct an autopsy.
- “Mali: New eyewitness testimony describes killings and mass displacement amid surge in violence in Menaka”, 16 June
- “Mali: Allegations of crimes against civilians in Moura: An independent investigation must take place”, 7 April (French only)
- Mali: Crimes Without Convictions: Analysis of the Judicial Response to Conflict Related Crimes in Central Mali, 13 April