Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Date: 17 July 2020
Amid continuing tensions in Mali, where there has been a series of anti-government protests in recent weeks, we urge the authorities to ensure that security forces refrain from resorting to unnecessary or excessive force in policing demonstrations or otherwise interacting with protesters.
We are particularly concerned in light of events in the capital, Bamako, last Friday and over the weekend when special forces (Force spéciale antiterroriste - FORSAT) are reported to have fired lethal ammunition during clashes with demonstrators. The Human Rights and Protection Division of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has confirmed that at least 14 protesters - including one woman and two boys - were killed and 154 others injured.
During the protests, at least 200 people were arrested. All had been released by the evening of 13 July, pending trial. Among them were three leaders of the Mouvement du 5 juin Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5-RFP). This is a coalition of political parties, religious leaders and civil society organizations formed in the aftermath of a rally on 5 June during which protesters called for the president's resignation, as well as the dissolution of parliament and the constitutional court.
The announcement by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta that there will be investigations into the violence is welcome. It is essential that all alleged human rights violations and acts of violence committed during the demonstrations are the subject of prompt, thorough, transparent and independent investigations and that those responsible are held accountable. In line with its mandate, the MINUSMA Human Rights and Protection Division has launched a fact-finding mission to examine allegations of serious human rights violations perpetrated in connection with the protests.
We note that many of the demonstrations taking place across the country were peaceful, but there were incidents of protesters destroying and looting private and public properties, including ransacking part of the National Assembly building. One group occupied the premises of the national radio and television station, taking it off air.
We call on all sides to exercise utmost restraint and use peaceful means to deal with their grievances, which have been triggered by a variety of factors, including the outcome of delayed parliamentary elections, alleged endemic corruption and weak governance, heightened insecurity and violent extremism in different parts of the country. We are also concerned that since the demonstrations on 10 July there has been a proliferation of fake news and messages online inciting violence which risk heightening tensions further.
The Malian National Human Rights Commission noted on 13 July that it had been denied access to demonstrators in custody. Amid this volatile situation, we remind the authorities of their obligations to support, and not impede, the work of the national human rights institution and civil society organisations which play an important role regarding the promotion and protection of the human rights of everyone in Mali.
We call on the country's state institutions as well as political actors to respect democratic principles and safeguard human rights and the rule of law.