Mali: Bodies in mass graves must be identified

The authorities in Mali must urgently identify the 21 bodies found in a mass grave last night, Amnesty International said today. They are believed to be the bodies of soldiers abducted in May last year.

The mass grave was discovered following the arrest of General Amadou Haya Sanogo who led a military coup in Mali in March last year. Several of his soldiers were also detained.

They were charged with kidnapping, murder and assassination in connection with the disappearance of the 21 ‘red beret’ soldiers suspected of supporting a counter-coup against General Sanogo.

Amnesty International’s Mali researcher Gaĕtan Mootoo said:

“Ever since the soldiers were abducted from the Kati Military Camp, their loved ones have been desperate to know what has happened to them. Authorities in Mali must now do everything in their power to give the families the full truth.

“Unfortunately, the initial reports seem to confirm our fears that the 21 soldiers could have been executed. Amnesty extends its deepest sympathies to all the families concerned.”

Last week, an Amnesty delegation met with relatives of the disappeared soldiers.

Fatimata Cissé, wife of one of the soldiers, told Amnesty:

“I’m completely traumatised not knowing what has happened to my husband. I can’t go on like this. Even if he is in a mass grave, I need to know.”

Sagara Binto Maiga, President of the wives and relatives of the disappeared Red Berets, said:

“We told the Minister of Defence that we would march naked into the mosques if he did not tell us what has happened to our loved ones. We gave them a deadline of the arrival of the Amnesty International delegation. He told us to be patient and that they were doing what they can. The very next day Sanogo was arrested and charged.”

Gaetan Mootoo added:

“Amnesty welcomes the efforts the government is making towards restoring justice and rule of law.

“But it is the tip of the iceberg. More needs to be done to establish the truth of all the grave human rights violations committed over the last two years.”

During its most recent visit to Mali, Amnesty launched an Agenda for Human Rights, calling on the authorities to investigate and bring to justice all perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations committed over the past two years.

In particular, the Agenda called for information on the whereabouts of the 21 soldiers and the execution of more than 40 civilians by the Malian security services.

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