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Title: Mali Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996




                                MALI


Mali is a constitutional democracy.  The Government is headed by Prime 
Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.  In the country's first democratic 
elections in 1992, which were judged to be free and fair by 
international observers, citizens ratified a new Constitution, elected 
the National Assembly, and chose President Alpha Oumar Konare as Head of 
State.  These elections completed a 14-month transition following the 
1991 overthrow of the Moussa Traore regime.  In January, the Government 
reached an agreement with the majority of Tuareg and Maur rebel groups 
in the north, ending several years of a rebellion.  All parties held to 
the agreement, and there were no casualties during the year.

Security forces are composed of the Army, Air Force, Gendarmerie, the 
Republican Guard, and the police.  The Army and Air Force are under the 
control of a civilian Minister of Defense, as are the Gendarmerie and 
the Republican Guard.  The police are under the Ministry of Territorial 
Administration.  There was one report of police brutality during a 
violent demonstration in October.

Mali is a very poor country.  Its economy is based primarily on farming 
and animal husbandry, making it highly dependent on adequate rainfall 
for its economic well-being.  The Government continues to make progress 
in implementing reforms aimed at modernizing the economy.  Nevertheless, 
Mali continues to be beset by economic problems, including a poor 
infrastructure, the lack of an industrial sector, and heavy dependence 
on foreign assistance.  Social ills, including a literacy rate of only 
23 percent and a high population growth rate, also contribute to Mali's 
poverty.

The Government generally respected constitutional provisions for 
freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion.  
However, prison conditions are poor, and the judicial system's large 
case backlog results in long periods of pretrial detention.  The 
executive branch retains influence over the judiciary.

Social and cultural factors continued to sharply limit economic and 
educational opportunities for most women.  Societal violence against 
women and children, including spousal abuse and female genital 
mutilation, is widespread.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from:

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

There were no developments in the October 1994 deaths of the Swiss 
Cooperation Mission director and his two Malian colleagues, killed by an 
army patrol in Niafunke.  A government mission of inquiry into their 
deaths determined in December 1994 that the patrol's actions were 
unwarranted and unjustified.  However, to date, the Government has 
neither identified publicly the responsible parties nor made attempts to 
expedite the case, which is still being reviewed at the regional court 
in Mopti.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment

There was one report of police brutality during a violent demonstration 
by former government employees in October.  Prison conditions continue 
to be characterized by overcrowding, inadequate medical facilities, and 
limited food supplies.  Several associations, including the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Malian Association 
of Human Rights, and the Malian Association of Women Jurists visited 
prisoners in 1995 and are working with women and juvenile prisoners to 
improve their conditions.  Juvenile offenders are usually held in the 
same prison as adult offenders.  Women are housed in the same prison 
facility as men but live in a separate compound.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that suspects must be charged or released 
within 48 hours and are entitled to counsel.  In practice, however, 
detainees are not always charged within the 48-hour period.  Moreover, 
administrative backlogs and insufficient lawyers, judges, and courts 
often cause lengthy delays in bringing people to trial.  In extreme 
cases, individuals have remained several years in prison before coming 
to trial.  Judicial warrants are required for arrest.  Local lawyers 
have estimated that about half of prison inmates are pretrial detainees.  
There is no incommunicado detention.

Bail does not exist.  On occasion the authorities release defendants on 
their own recognizance.

The Government does not practice forced exile.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the 
executive branch continues to exert considerable influence over the 
judicial system.  The Ministry of Justice appoints judges and supervises 
both law enforcement and judicial functions, and the President heads the 
Superior Judicial Council, which oversees judicial activity.

The Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative powers.  The 
Constitution established a separate Constitutional Court which oversees 
issues of constitutionality and acts as an election arbiter.  The 
Constitution also provides for the convening of a High Court of Justice 
with the power to try senior government officials in cases of treason.

Except in the case of minors, trials are public, and defendants have the 
right to be present and to have an attorney of their choice.  Defendants 
are presumed innocent and have the right to confront witnesses and to 
appeal decisions to the Supreme Court.  Court-appointed attorneys are 
provided for the indigent on a pro bono basis.  The majority of disputes 
in rural areas are decided by the village chief in consultation with the 
elders.  If these decisions are challenged in court, only those found to 
have legal merit will be upheld.

Women and minorities are not discriminated against in courts, but 
traditional practice discriminates against women in inheritance matters.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the home, and the 
Government respects this right in practice.  Police searches are 
infrequent and require judicial warrants.  Security forces do, however, 
maintain physical and technical surveillance of individuals and groups 
believed to be threats to internal security, including surveillance of 
telephone and written correspondence of individuals deemed a threat to 
national security.

Section 2  Respect for Civil liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government respects these in practice.  There are nearly 50 independent 
newspapers and journals, in French and local languages, including 2 
independent daily newspapers.

The Government controls the only television station, two of many radio 
stations, and one of the three daily newspapers, but these all operate 
on a semi-independent basis and present a wide range of views, including 
those critical of the Government, the President, the Prime Minister, and 
other politicians.  

Seven independent radio stations exist in Bamako and several others 
operate in regional capitals.  French cable television began 
rebroadcasting operations in September, and the Government has taken 
initial steps toward private television licensing.

Laws passed in 1993 regulate the press and provide for substantial 
penalties, including imprisonment, for slander and for public injury to 
the Head of State, other officials, and foreign diplomats; these laws 
leave injury undefined and subject to judicial interpretation.

Academic freedom is respected.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice.  The Government does not interfere with political 
meetings, which take place openly.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and declares Mali to 
be a secular state.  The Government does not discriminate on religious 
grounds, and citizens are free to practice their faiths.  Although legal 
restrictions on the Baha'i faith still exist, the Government does not 
enforce them, and Baha'i worship freely.  The Minister of Territorial 
Administration can prohibit religious publications which it concludes 
defame another religion, but there were no known instances of 
publications being prohibited.

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for these rights and the Government generally 
respects them in practice.  The Government generally does not restrict 
internal movement, and does not restrict international travel.  However, 
police routinely stop and check both citizens and foreigners, ostensibly 
to restrict the movement of contraband and to verify vehicle 
registrations.  Some police and gendarmes use the occasion to extort 
bribes.

There are approximately 13,000 Mauritanian Peuhl refugees settled in 
Mali.  The fighting in the north between government troops and Tuareg 
rebels between 1990 and January 1995 generated an estimated 120,000 
Tuareg and Maur Malian refugees, most of whom fled to Mauritania, 
Algeria, and Burkina Faso.  Mali has signed repatriation accords with 
these nations and Niger under the auspices of the United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees.  In September the Government appealed to the 
international donor community for development, demobilization, and 
repatriation assistance.  By year's end more than 36,000 refugees had 
returned from these neighboring countries.  The Government does not 
forcibly repatriate refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

Citizens have the right to change their government and did so for the 
first time in 1992, voting by secret ballot in elections which were 
generally free, fair, and broad-based, despite some irregularities.  
Twenty-one political parties participated in the elections, and 11 are 
represented in the National Assembly.  The President's party, the 
Association for Democracy in Mali, holds the majority of the seats in 
the Assembly.

Under the Constitution, the President is Chief of State and Commander-
in-Chief of the armed forces and is elected for a term of 5 years with a 
limit of two terms.  The President appoints the Prime Minister.

There are no restrictions on voting, legal or otherwise, for women or 
minorities.  However, women are underrepresented in politics.  Only 3 
women hold seats in the 116-member National Assembly, and 2 cabinet 
ministers are women.  A third woman, the Secretary for the Promotion of 
Women, holds ministerial rank.  Nomadic peoples, including Fulani and 
Tuareg, are represented in both the Cabinet and National Assembly.  The 
President of the Assembly is Fulani.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

There are three independent human rights organizations:  the Malian 
Association for Human Rights (AMDH), a smaller Malian League of Human 
Rights, and a recently established chapter of Amnesty International.  
All operate openly and without interference from the Government.  AMDH 
criticized the Government's policy toward student protests and its 
treatment of students who protested (often violently) for larger 
scholarships.  The ICRC has an office in Bamako.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination by reason of social origin, 
color, language, sex, or race, and respects these in practice.  However, 
social and cultural factors give men a dominant role.

  Women

Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex and 
provides for the basic rights of all persons, violence against women, 
including wife beating, is tolerated and pervasive.

Women's access to jobs in the professions and government is limited, as 
are economic and educational opportunities.  The Government, the major 
employer, pays women the same as men for similar work.  Women often live 
under harsh conditions, especially in the rural areas, where they 
perform hard farm work and do most of the childrearing.

Despite legislation giving women equal rights regarding property, 
traditional practice and ignorance of the law prevent women from taking 
full advantage of this reform.  There are numerous active women's groups 
that promote the rights of women and children, and the female head of 
the Commission for the Promotion of Women enjoys the rank of minister.  
Women have very limited access to legal services.  They are particularly 
vulnerable in cases of divorce, child custody, and inheritance rights, 
as well as in general protection of civil rights.

  Children

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by 
international health experts as damaging to both physical and 
psychological health, is still common, especially in rural areas, and is 
performed on girls at an early age.  According to an international 
expert, 75 percent of women have undergone this mutilation.  The 
Government has not proposed legislation prohibiting FGM.  However, it 
supports educational efforts to eliminate the practice through seminars 
and conferences and provides media access to proponents of its 
elimination.

Only one in five children receives basic education.  There is no 
constitutional or legal provision to protect the interests and rights of 
children, and no juvenile court system.  However, the Malian Social 
Services Department investigates and intervenes in cases of reported 
child abuse or neglect.

  People with Disabilities

There is no specific legislation protecting the rights of the physically 
or mentally disabled, nor mandating accessibility.  The Government does 
not discriminate against the physically disabled in regard to 
employment, education, and other state services.  Given the high 
unemployment rate, however, the physically disabled are often unable to 
find work.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution and the Labor Code specifically provide for the freedom 
of workers to form or join unions and protect freedom of association.  
Only the military, the gendarmerie, and the Republican Guard are 
excluded from forming unions.  Virtually all salaried employees are 
organized.  Workers have established independent unions for teachers, 
magistrates, health workers, and senior civil servants, and most are 
affiliated with the National Union of Malian Workers (UNTM) 
confederation.  The UNTM has maintained its autonomy from the current 
Government.

The Constitution provides for the right to strike, although there are 
restrictions in some areas.  For example, civil servants and workers in 
state-owned enterprises must give 2 weeks' notice of a planned strike 
and must enter into negotiations with the employer and a third party, 
usually the Ministry of Labor.  The Labor Code prohibits retribution 
against strikers.  Most strikes have involved government employees, and 
the Government made no attempt to retaliate against them.  Unions are 
free to associate with and participate in international bodies.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

True collective bargaining does not take place.  The growth of 
independent unions has led to more direct bargaining between these 
unions and their employers.  Wages and salaries, however, for those 
workers belonging to the UNTM unions are set by tripartite negotiations 
between the Ministry of Labor, labor unions, and representatives of the 
federation of employers of the sector to which the wages apply.  These 
negotiations usually set the pattern for unions outside the UNTM.  The 
Ministry of Labor acts as a mediator in labor disputes.

Neither the Constitution nor the Labor Code addresses the question of 
antiunion discrimination, but there have been no reports or complaints 
of antiunion behavior or activities.  If the parties cannot come to 
agreement, the dispute goes to the Labor Court for decision.

There are no export processing zones.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  Reports of de 
facto slavery persist, especially in the remote salt mining communities 
of Taoudeni north of Timbuktu.  These reports are difficult to verify, 
and other reports indicate that the members of the Bellah ethnic group 
who work the mines now receive wages, however meager.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal age for employment is 14, but children may work with 
parental permission as apprentices at age 12.  This regulation is often 
ignored in practice.  Moreover, it has no effect on the vast number of 
children who work in rural areas, helping with family farms and herds, 
and in the informal sector, e.g., street vending.  These children are 
not protected by laws against unjust compensation, excessive hours, or 
capricious discharge.  The Labor Inspection Service of the Ministry of 
Labor is responsible for, and reasonably effective in, enforcement of 
child labor laws, but only in the modern sector.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code specifies conditions of employment, including hours, 
wages, and social security, but in practice many employers either ignore 
or do not comply completely with the regulations.  The national minimum 
wage rate is approximately $40 (cfa 21,000) per month .  Workers paid on 
a daily basis receive a rate of $1.80 (cfa 1,000).  Workers must be paid 
overtime for additional hours.  The minimum wage is supplemented by a 
required package of benefits, including social security and health care 
benefits.  While this total package could provide a minimum standard of 
living for one person, in practice most wage earners support large 
extended families and must supplement their income by some subsistence 
farming or work in the informal sector.

The normal legal workweek is 40 hours, with a requirement for at least 
one 24-hour rest period.  The Social Security Code provides a broad 
range of legal protections against hazards in the workplace, and 
workers' groups have brought pressure on employers to respect parts of 
the regulations, particularly those affecting personal hygiene.  With 
unemployment high, however, workers are often reluctant to report 
violations of occupational safety regulations.  The Labor Inspection 
Service of the Ministry of Labor oversees these standards but limits 
enforcement to the modern, formal sector.  Workers have the right to 
remove themselves from dangerous work situations and request an 
investigation by the Social Security Department, which is responsible 
for recommending remedial action where deemed necessary. 

(###)

[end of document]

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