The armed forces of Mali are responsible for dozens of cases of killings, mistreatment, and disappearances during counterterrorism operations in the country’s central Mopti region, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.
In a press release, the international nongovernmental organization claims that Malian soldiers have taken the lives of at least 34 villagers, caused the disappearance of more than 16 people, and severely mistreated several detainees.
The allegation was reported after the rights group interviewed people who have allegedly witnessed massacres and beatings committed by security forces from 2020 to this day.
One of the incidents that HRW investigated and included in the report was the abuse of dozens of bus passengers on March 23. Soldiers in Boni reportedly detained, blindfolded, and severely beat passengers after finding suspicious materials in the vehicle’s baggage compartment.
Another case of reported abuse involving Mali’s armed forces occurred on October 22, 2020, after 25 fleeing villagers, including women, children, and the elderly, were killed.
“Mali’s security forces have shown scant regard for human life during recent counterterrorism operations,” HRW Sahel Director Corinne Dufka said. “Committing serious abuses in the name of security only fuels recruitment into abusive armed groups and undermines trust by local populations,” she added.
HRW recommended that the country’s transitional government conduct an impartial investigation to determine if Malian soldiers have committed human rights violations.
Mali Gov’t Says Investigation is Ongoing
HRW sent a letter to the Malian government on April 7 detailing alleged abuses committed by the country’s armed forces during operations.
The group admitted to receiving a reply from the General Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs, confirming an investigation has already been opened.
The Malian top official also revealed that several soldiers have been questioned to determine the accuracy of witness statements.
“Promising to investigate abuses is a positive step, but the Malian government has failed to make good on many previous such commitments,” Dufka said.
“The Malian authorities should rein in abusive units and do much more to ensure discipline in operations, hold abusers to account, and prevent further atrocities,” she added.