Republic of Mali

Head of state: Alpha Oumar Konaré
Head of government: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
Capital: Bamako
Population: 9.9 million
Official language: French
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
1999 treaty ratifications/signatures: UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

President Alpha Oumar Konaré commuted all death sentences passed in 1998 and in 1999. Former President Moussa Traoré, his wife and his brother-in-law were among those who benefited from this measure. A number of students, some of whom appeared to be prisoners of conscience, were released after a presidential pardon. Opposition supporters detained pending trial since mid-1998 were released provisionally in October.


President Konaré, who was re-elected in 1997, stressed that the Malian Constitution would be respected and that he would not stand for a third term. The Constitution allows for only two presidential terms. In March the Ministry of Justice convened a national forum on the reform of justice, which was attended by participants from Africa, France and Canada. In his opening speech, President Konaré reiterated his opposition to the death penalty. He expressed regret that the Malian judicial system was subject to delays and that the country's prisons held more pre-trial detainees than prisoners sentenced to prison terms. The Justice Minister announced the organization of a debate on the death penalty. There have been no executions in Mali during the past decade. In December Demba Diallo, a lawyer and former President of the Association malienne des droits de l'homme, Malian Association for Human Rights, was appointed Mediator of the Republic.

Political prisoners

Former President Moussa Traoré, his wife Mariam, and his brother-in-law were convicted of embezzlement and other economic offences and sentenced to death by the Bamako Assize court in January. The court also sentenced the presidential couple to fines amounting to 300 million francs. Two other former government officials tried on the same charges were acquitted.

Imprisoned students, most of whom were leading members of the Association des étudiants et élèves du Mali, Association of Malian Students, were released in July after a presidential pardon. They had been tried in 1998 before the Bamako Assize Court on charges including arson, obstructing a public highway and manslaughter.

Nine opposition supporters, including Adama Koyaté and Dancry Foune Sissoko, who were detained pending trial were released provisionally in October. They were arrested in June 1998 and accused of conspiracy, threatening the safety of the state and illegal possession of arms and ammunition.

AI visit to Mali

In December, an AI delegation led by Pierre Sané, AI's Secretary General, visited Mali. President Konaré was the incoming Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mali had been elected to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. AI's delegates met President Konaré and sought to ensure that human rights protection was placed high on the agenda of West African governments. The delegation also met the Prime Minister and other government officials.

During talks with the Minister of Justice, the AI delegation insisted that all allegations of torture should be impartially investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice. The delegates also raised the provisional releases of political prisoners. The Minister of Justice informed the delegation that disciplinary and legal action had been taken against two prison guards responsible for ill-treatment of prisoners at Kayes prison.

Shortly after this visit, the government named a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment made by opposition party supporters who were arrested in 1997 in Niamakoro. They were alleged to have been tortured by police in the presence of senior police officials.

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