Mali: Malian Justice Opens Investigations against Soldiers and Officers in the “Missing Red Berets” Case

Press release
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At the beginning of November 2013, the investigative judge in charge of the “Missing Red Berets” case opened a criminal investigation against 20 soldiers and officers, one of whom is General Amadou Haya Sanogo, for their presumed responsibility in the arrest and enforced disappearance of some twenty Red Berets on 2 May 2012. These events had taken place in the aftermath of a failed attempt to remove the military junta headed by General Sanogo who came to power a month earlier by a coup d’état.

« By taking this strong action, the Malian justice begins to lift the veil on a painful episode in Mali’s recent history and allows families of victims to hope for the truth as to the disappearance of their close ones and to envision justice. We urge them to conduct investigations on both camps in order to identify those responsible, » declared Mr Moctar Mariko, AMDH President.

Among the 20 soldiers targeted, a captain of the gendarmerie force and two officers of rank were arrested on 23 and 30 of October 2013 and charged with “complicity in kidnapping” on 31 October 2013. The seventeen other members of the military, including General Sanogo, were summoned to appear before the court, a measure which precedes the issuance of warrants, as part of the investigation into the arrest, torture, ill-treatment, and enforced disappearance of at least 20 soldiers, most of whom belonged to the elite force of the parachute regiment called “Red Berets” and loyal to former President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT).

« These judicial investigations and summons, in a sensitive case, constitutes a strong signal of the courts to fight against impunity in Mali. The authorities must support this process and help ensure that Mali regains peace and security, » declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

On 30 April 2012, Red Berets loyal to President ATT, who had been overthrown on 22 March 2012 by a coup d’état lead by Amadou Haya Sanogo, tried to retake power. After three days of fighting, the pro-Sanogo forces arrested, detained, and tortured many pro-ATT soldiers. According to the investigations conducted by members of FIDH, AMDH and other human rights organisations, some 20 soldiers (the majority of them Red Berets) detained at the Kati Soundiata Keita military base - headquarters of the Sanogo forces – were taken away in military trucks on 2 May 2012 and have since disappeared. According to some sources, the Red Berets were executed and buried a dozen kilometres from Kati. Additionally, Red Berets, during the attempted counter coup d’état, had attacked the Office of Radio and Television of Mali (ORTM) during which several Green Beret soldiers (loyal to Sanogo) were killed. In the days that followed this event, our organisations were able to document a number of human rights violations such as acts of torture, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, as well as the forced disappearance of the Red Berets.

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