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Mali’s Junta Renews Assault on Political Opposition

Release, Drop Charges Against 11 People Wrongfully Arrested

The leader of Mali's junta, Col. Assimi Goïta, center, in Bamako, Mali, September 22, 2022. © 2022 AP Photo

Mali’s military junta arrested 11 opposition figures last week in the authorities’ latest assault on the political opposition.

On June 20, gendarmes surrounded a private home in Bamako, Mali’s capital, and arrested members of the country’s main opposition coalition, known as March 31 Declaration’s Opposition Platform (Plateforme d'opposition de la Déclaration du 31 mars).

One of those arrested, Mohamed Ali Bathily, a lawyer and former minister, was released on June 21. The 10 others were presented before a judge on June 24, after the legal deadline for custody –72 hours under Malian law – had expired. They were charged with “conspiracy against the government” and “undermining public order,” among other offenses, and then transferred to pretrial custody. Legal sources expect them to remain in detention until trial.

The military junta seized power in a 2021 coup. Last March, the platform, which includes more than 80 political parties and associations, called for a return to constitutional order and the organization of presidential elections. In response, in April, the council of ministers adopted a decree suspending the activities of political parties and associations “until further notice.” The Malian communications regulatory body directed all media to stop “broadcasting and publishing the activities” of political parties and associations.

In September 2023, the junta announced that the elections, scheduled for March, would be delayed indefinitely for technical reasons. In May, Col. Assimi Goïta, the head of the junta, received recommendations ensuing from a “national dialogue” – a consultation process boycotted by most of Mali's political parties – requesting the extension of the transition period for the junta to rule from “two to five years.”

In a June 20 statement, the opposition platform denounced the arrest of their members as “yet another violation of fundamental freedoms,” and called on their supporters to remain mobilized.

Since the military coup, Mali’s junta has increasingly cracked down on peaceful dissent, political opposition, civil society, and the media, shrinking the country’s civic and political space. Authorities dissolved political and civil society organizations, forcibly disappeared a whistleblower, and arrested journalists.

Instead of prosecuting political opponents, Malian authorities should protect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in accordance with Mali’s obligations under international human rights law. They should immediately release and drop charges against all those wrongfully arrested.

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