Malian troops, humiliated and made to bite the dust by Tuareg fighters of MNLA and Islamists during the occupation, are now being accused of committing serious human rights violations in acts of revenge.
Several accounts of theft, torture, beating and illegal detention published last week by Human Rights Watch (HRW) demonstrated the drive by Malian troops to show that the roles have been reversed, and that they are now in control of the country.
“They beat me, and kicked me in my face and back, and one struck me in the neck. As I was passing out from the beating I was aware of them sticking their hands in my pockets, pulling off my clothes. …The money is nowhere to be seen,” one man told HRW.
“They told me to crouch down, slammed my head hard against a wall, pulled it back then grabbed a bucket of water and poured it down my nose and into my mouth.… While doing this they asked me, “Tell us what job you were doing with them and why you had money on you,” another said.
Four of the men described being robbed of the money from the sale of their cows, and a 66-year-old trader said he sold 32 cows and the soldiers had taken 3.3 million FCFA (6 520 USD) from him while he was in custody.
Soldiers also allegedly stole another 1.4 million CFA (2 845 USD) from the other men.
Another HRW account tells the story of seven male detainees – all from the ethnic Tuareg – between the ages of 21 and 66 who said soldiers had detained them in or near the animal market in Léré after they went there from nearby villages to sell their cows.
Two were detained while hiding in a house near the animal market. All seven were taken to a house that appeared to be serving as an ad hoc military headquarters, the report said.
These are only a few examples of serious human rights violations documented by a team of HRW investigators from 11 March to 23 March 2013 in this conflict-hit West African nation.
“The use of torture by the very soldiers mandated to restore security in northern Mali will only make a difficult situation worse,” HRW West Africa senior researcher Corinne Dufka said.
“The Malian government should promptly and impartially investigate these and other allegations of abuse or face an increasingly unaccountable military and deepening communal tensions,” Dufka added.
The torture and other ill-treatment of the men caused lasting injuries, the New York-based rights organisation said.
“One man went blind in one eye after being clubbed in the face with a gun butt, while another had gone partially deaf after being kicked repeatedly in the head, the report said.
“Two of the men described being beaten until unconscious, one of whom later vomited blood and bled from his nose. Another suffered a broken or dislocated shoulder after being hurled to the ground while bound, while another said he suffered at least one broken rib.”
*Photo by Harouna Traore/AP