The trial of Amadou Haya Sanago opens in Mali: a crucial step forward in the fight against impunity

Press release
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(Bamako, Sikasso, Paris) The trial of Amadou Haya Sanogo, leader of the March 2012 military coup in Mali, will open in Sikasso on 30 November 2016. He will be tried along with 17 co-defendants, including several high-ranking Malian military officials.

FIDH and AMDH are civil parties to the case – known as the case of the “disappeared bérets rouges” – and are accompanying 23 of the victims’ close relatives and family connections. Both organisations welcome this trial, which represents a significant step in the fight against impunity both for the gravest crimes committed in the north and south of Mali since 2012, as well as for Africa as a whole. FIDH and AMDH now call on the judicial authorities to ensure a fair and just trial.

“The victims and our organisations want to see their position and interests taken into account and also expect the trial to be conducted fairly and in a transparent way, with the aim of delivering justice for the victims”

Moctar MARIKO, lawyer representing victims in the case and president of AMDH
A strong FIDH and AMDH delegation will be present in Sikasso throughout the trial. Members of the delegation are available to give additional explanations and comments.

Lawyers from FIDH’s Litigation Action Group (LAG) joined both FIDH and AMDH as civil parties to the case in 2013, supported 23 of the victims’ close relatives and family connections throughout the investigation phase of the proceedings and will also be representing them during the trial in Sikasso. The Litigation Action Group has mobilised lawyers from human rights organisations that are members of FIDH in Mali, Senegal, France and Ivory Coast, who are working on cases against perpetrators of mass crimes in these countries and across Africa.

“A trial of this kind is an opportunity to bring out the truth over a difficult period in Mali’s recent history, during which – while the country was being attacked from the North – a handful of officers unhesitatingly executed 21 soldiers in cold blood in an effort to hold on to power acquired a few days earlier in a military coup. Mali honours itself by rendering justice and giving the defendants a right which they denied their victims”

Clémence Bectarte, co-ordinator of the FIDH Litigation Action Group and lawyer representing the victims in the Sikasso trial

FIDH and AMDH urge the Malian government to take the necessary measures to ensure the trial is properly held, especially in terms of guaranteeing the security of the victims, their lawyers, and representatives of human rights organisations who will be attending the trial. On several occasions since 2013, individuals claiming to support Amadou Haya Sanogo have exerted pressure on or threatened the victims’ families, seeking to force them to abandon their fight for truth and justice in relation to the fate of their loved ones.

“This is a historic and symbolic trial for Mali, a country marked since January 2012 by the perpetration of grave human rights violations. It is an essential step towards a new chapter following the military coups, drawing a line under these events. The trial should also be a catalyst for advancing other cases within the Malian justice system, especially those concerning the “30 September 2013 mutiny” and the crimes committed in the north of the country since January 2012””

Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice-President
Background: “The military coup and the counter-coup seen against the backdrop of conflict in northern Mali”

On 21 and 22 March 2012, with Mali facing (since January 2012) an offensive by armed separatist Touareg groups as well as jihadist groups who had already taken close to a quarter of the country, a group of military officers took power in Bamako, overthrowing President Amadou Toumani Touré. Just days from the scheduled presidential elections, those behind the coup declared themselves to be the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and the State (“Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de l’État”, CNRDR or CNRDRE) and set up a military junta headed by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo.

On 30 April 2012, a counter-coup was attempted by the “bérets rouges”, a parachutist unit of the army that had remained loyal to the former President Amadou Toumani Touré, led by Colonel Abdina Guindo.The attempt was thwarted and violently repressed by those involved in the initial coup, who captured dozens of bérets rouges.

According to FIDH and AMDH investigations, during the night of 2 May 2012, 21 of the bérets rouges soldiers were taken out of their cells and transported in military trucks towards Diago, a town close to Kati, which was the headquarters of coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo, approximately 20 kilometres from Bamako. The 21 bérets rouges were executed there and buried in a communal grave.

During the political transition, a criminal investigation for “kidnapping” was opened and transferred to the investigating judge Karambé from the Bamako, Commune 3 first instance court. On 28 November 2013, FIDH and AMDH became civil parties to the investigation, alongside 23 parents and close connections of the disappeared soldiers. Between 27 November 2013 and January 2014, 27 people (including Amadou Haya Sanogo) were charged and taken into custody.

During the night of 3 December 2013, the investigation led to the identification of a mass grave in Diago, where 21 bodies were found. The prosecutorial authorities granted FIDH and AMDH’s subsequent request that the case be re-classified as one of “assassination, murder and collusion in these two offences”.

The investigation was completed in 2015 after the results of forensic analysis and DNA tests confirmed that the 21 bodies found were indeed those of the 21 “disappeared” bérets rouges soldiers, who had been detained by Haya Sanogo and his inner circle.

At the end of the investigation, which was conducted promptly, the case crossed an important milestone on 22 December 2015, when the Indictments Division of the Bamako Court of Appeal formally charged Amadou Haya Sanogo and 17 co-defendants and referred them before the criminal courts (Cour d’Assises).
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