(Nairobi) – Two ethnic Tuareg men who had been arrested on February 15, 2013, and tortured by Malian soldiers in the town of Léré, Timbuktu region, have died in detention at the Central Prison in Bamako.
Human Rights Watch had interviewed and documented the torture inflicted on seven men, including the two who died, in a March 26 news release. They had been transferred on March 5 to Gendarme Camp 1 in Bamako, where they received some medical attention. In late March,they were transferred to the Central Prison in Bamako.
“The Malian government’s failure to investigate the torture of the seven men is made all the worse by the death of two of them in prison,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, who interviewed the men before their transfer to the central prison. “These men are the most recent to perish in custody on account of severely substandard conditions. The government needs to take concrete action to improve both treatment and conditions for all its detainees.”
People who knew the two men told Human Rights Watch that they died during the night of April 6 and 7 as a result of excessive heat, possibly combined with the injuries from their earlier mistreatment. The torture may have left them vulnerable to rapid deterioration. While detained by the army, one of the deceased had been injected with a caustic substance, and had suffered a fractured rib and burns on his back. However, one person who knew them said that, “When they left the gendarmerie, the men’s health was improving.”
A person who spoke with several of the detainees in prison in late March, said the seven men were detained in a small room with no ventilation, and had complained about the excessive heat both in the daytime and at night. March through May are the warmest months in Mali; the average temperature in Bamako during these months is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Temperatures within an enclosed room without ventilation would drive this temperature considerably higher. The witness quoted one of the detainees who later died as saying: “If we are not moved from that room, all of us are going to die from the heat.” The witness said that the remaining five men were moved on April 9 to a room with improved ventilation.
The army had detained and tortured the seven Tuareg men between the ages of 21 and 66 in Léré on February 15 on suspicion of their support for armed Islamist groups. In interviews with a Human Rights Watch researcher on March 20, the seven described being severely beaten and kicked, burned, injected with a caustic substance, and threatened with death while in army custody. One said he was subjected to simulated drowning akin to “waterboarding.” Another went blind in one eye after being clubbed in the face with a gun butt, while another had gone partially deaf after being kicked repeatedly in the head. The Malian army had retaken Léré in late January as part of a French-led offensive to recapture northern Mali from Islamist armed groups.
Human Rights Watch urged the Malian government to:
· Conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the two deaths in detention and the torture of the other detainees;
· Prosecute as appropriate all those responsible for their torture or deaths;
· Ensure adequate compensation for the families;
· Ensure humane conditions for all prisoners in Bamako Central Prison and other places of detention; and
· Develop a detailed plan to improve prison health services and conditions.