Mali: Discovery of the mass grave of the "Missing Red Berets"

Press release
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FIDH and AMDH call for reclassification of charges against General Sanogo

On 3 December 2013, Mr Yaya Karambé, the judge in charge of the judicial inquiry into the case of the "Missing Red Berets", proceeded with the exhumation of 21 bodies in the village Diago, near Kati. These bodies are believed to be those of 21 military Red Berets missing as of 30 April 2012 following what has been called an attempted counter-coup d’etat to put an end to the military junta led by General Amadou Haya Sanogo, who had deposed President Amadou Toumani Touré a month earlier. FIDH and AMDH, which are civil parties in the proceedings and represent 17 families of victims, welcome this major step forward for the investigation. Today, our organisations are filing a request with the investigating judge for reclassification of the charges against the accused to "assassination and murder".

This discovery follows the significant progress made in recent days by Mr. Karambé. In addition to the indictment of General Sanogo, as a result of being provided a list of 20 names by two senior military officers close to General Sanogo, Mr. Karambé was able to proceed with three new indictments. This brings the total number of those charged to seven, two of whom led to a detailed confession on the conditions in which the victims were summarily executed and buried in a mass grave.

« The discovery of the 21 bodies is sad news for the families of missing persons, but is also an important step towards the truth and the identification of individual criminal responsibility. The relatives of the missing still awaiting formal identification of the remains, but we will ask the judge on behalf of victims’ families, the that the charges against those presumed to be responsible can be reclassified to assassination, » said Mr. Moctar Mariko, AMDH President and lawyer representing the victims.

On 26 July 2012, Malian prosecutors opened legal proceedings in the "Missing Red Berets” case. In early November 2013, the judge in charge of the case had issued fifteen warrants against senior officials of the military junta. He has since charged a total of seven individuals, including General Sanogo, who was charged on 27 November 2013 with complicity in kidnapping and was placed in custody.

On 26 November 2013, FIDH , AMDH and 17 family members of the missing soldiers joined in judicial proceedings as civil parties in order to make sure the victims had their say, and to support efforts by the investigating judge to ensure that all those responsible are held accountable in this emblematic case of the fight against impunity in Mali .

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 corroborating sources indicated that the victims were executed and buried a dozen kilometers from Kati. Additionally, Red Berets, during the attempted counter coup d’état, had attacked the Office of Radio and Television of Mali (ORTM), which resulted in several Green Beret soldiers (loyal to Sanogo) being killed. This event is the subject of a separate legal procedure. In the days that followed these events, our organisations have documented a number of human rights violations such as acts of torture, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, as well as the enforced disappearance of the Red Berets.

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