On October 25, one day after the United Nations Security Council concluded a visit to Mali, eight people including a young boy and a man in his 80s were found dead in the village of N’Dola, in the country’s central Ségou region. A villager who helped bury the dead told Human Rights Watch they were executed during a government counterterrorism operation. “We found five bodies about two kilometers from the village, near the bridge,” he said. They had been blindfolded and the throats of several of them had been cut. The boy and his uncle were found about a kilometer away.”
A government spokesperson, while acknowledging the army conducted an operation near N’Dola that day, said they made 14 arrests but denied involvement in any extrajudicial killings in the village.
Since late 2020, the Ségou region has been rocked by clashes between Al-Qaeda fighters from Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the army and a progovernment militia known as the Dozos.
Human Rights Watch received separate allegations of other recent abuses in Ségou region including the killing of a local elder by local defense forces, and the decapitation of a captured civil defense force member by an armed Islamist group.
An official from Ségou reported that of the region’s seven local administrative areas, five were “occupied” by JNIM fighters who have chased away teachers and health workers, and are contributing to food insecurity by attacking and killing farmers and besieging and blockading villages.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has documented government security forces committing dozens of alleged summary executions and enforced disappearances during counterterrorism operations. The UN and others have also reported on Dozo abuses in Ségou since late 2020, including the kidnapping of numerous villagers for ransom, killing of community leaders who refuse to join their ranks, and the alleged gang rape of a woman.
Tens of thousands of villagers have fled their homes in recent months because of the violence. “It is atrocious – human life is being senselessly disrupted and taken by armed groups from all sides,” said an elder from Ségou.
The Malian government needs to do more to meet its responsibility to protect civilians. The authorities need to investigate allegations of abuse by the military as well as opposition armed groups and bring those responsible to justice. The UN and Mali’s international partners should increase calls for investigations, accountability, and better protection of civilians.