government: semi-presidential republic
state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 12 January 1992
legal system: based on French law and local customs
legislative system: Unicameral National Assembly
judicial system: Supreme Court, High court of Justice, Court of Appeal
religion: Muslim 90%, Christian 1%, indigenous beliefs 9%
death row: +63 (end 2017, Amnesty International)
year of last executions: 21-8-1980
death sentences: 10
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
Death sentences are given in Mali for serious crimes such as assassinations, terrorism, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, betrayals, sedition, spying, arsons and destruction with explosives of public buildings, plots against the state and embezzlement of public funds whose amount is equal to or more than 10 million CFA francs.
Following the fall of the 23-year dictatorship of General Moussa Traore in 1991, the first democratically-elected president, Alpha Oumar Konarè, immediately expressed himself in favour of the abolition of the death penalty. On December 10, 1997 to mark the international human rights day, he commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment.
On May 16, 2002 Konare’s government, practically at the end of its legislature, introduced a two-year suspension of executions. It said the provision was expected to provide the opportunity to discuss the maintenance or abolition of the death penalty.
On May 29, 2002 President Konare, nine days before leaving office, announced a pardon for former military ruler Moussa Traore, who had been sentenced to death in 1993 for the murder of over 150 pro-democracy protesters, though his sentence had later been commuted to life imprisonment. The release of the former dictator was one of the election promises of Amadou Toumani Tourè, the former general who is widely-credited with toppling Moussa’s military dictatorship and introducing democracy. Toure was elected president in April 2002 and took office on June 8, 2002.
On 22 September 2007, during his address to the Nation on the 47th anniversary of independence, President Amadou Toumani Touré, re-elected in April 2007, swore to quickly bring an end to the death penalty in his Country.
In fact, on 17 October 2007, the Mali government adopted a bill replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment. In a statement issued at the end of a cabinet meeting, the Government said “The abolition of the death penalty is a sign of respect for life which conforms to sacred values of humanity, clemency, compassion and forgiveness which are part of our society.”
The new bill to abolish the death penalty in Mali sparked hot debate in the National Assembly amid protests from Islamic groups who said abolishing it went against Islamic principles. On 11 June 2008, Boubacar Camara, an Imam and a member of the High Islamic Council of Mali (HCIM), said the Council “refuses to endorse a legal decision that is fundamentally opposed to what God and His Prophet have decreed.” “The death penalty is defined in Islam as a legitimate act of retaliation, as enacted by God in the Koran,” he added. “According to the Koran it allows one to preserve human life and social stability. Its abolition would open the way to widespread insecurity, anarchy, and general social instability.”
On 10 November 2010, regarding the current impasse on the parliamentary procedure of the proposed law, Justice Minister Maharafa Traore said he already considered “a success the fact that it wasn’t withdrawn but was kept in the Parliamentary Assembly’s orders of the day.” However, the Government would go forward in the process towards the abolition of the death penalty in Mali, he said.
On 21 December 2010, Mali co-sponsored and voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.
On 15 December 2011, President Touré pardoned Bechir Sinoun, a Tunisian national sentenced to death for attacking the French embassy on 5 January 2011. The decision was made after Tunisia’s President, Moncef Marzouki, called upon the Malian government to return Sinoun to Tunisia.
In December 2011, the draft bill to abolish the death penalty was again postponed by the National Assembly.
In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, which Tuareg rebels took control of by April and declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March and overthrew the government, and later fighting between Tuareg and Islamist rebels. However, heavy international pressure has forced coup leaders to accelerate the transition back to democratic rule and, to that end, Dioncounda Traore was installed as interim President on 12 April. Presidential elections (held in July-August 2013) and legislative elections (held in two rounds in November and December 2013) appeared to put an end to the instability in the country.
On 2 October 2012, Islamists who have seized control of northern Mali publicly executed a man accused of murder, witnesses told Agence France Presse by phone from the city of Timbuktu. The man – Moussa Agh Mohammed – was executed by firing squad at around 5:30 pm in a space between two municipal buildings in the ancient city, witnesses said. "I saw him fall after the shots were fired," one witness said. A city council member who also saw the execution confirmed the report and said a crowd of some 100 people had attended. A third witness, who identified himself as Bamoussa, said the executed man was accused of killing a fisherman and was a member of the ethnic Tuareg rebel group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). The victim’s family came to Mohammed’s execution, and before he was put to death, they were asked if they would forgive him for his crime. It was explained that in exchange, Mohammed’s family would be forced to compensate them for the death of their son. The victim’s mother said that she could not forgive Mohammed. The MNLA was formerly an ally of the Islamist groups that have seized control of the north. But the Islamists have since turned on the secular separatist group and chased its members out of cities under their control.
The last legal executions held in Mali were on 21 August 1980 when Mamadou Keita and Karuba Coulibaly, both condemned of murder and armed robbery in 1980, were shot to death. Since then all death sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment by presidential pardon.
At least 7 death sentences were handed down in 2013, all for murder, according to Amnesty International. There were at least 10 death sentences in 2012, at least 2 in 2011, and at least 14 in 2010.
In 2017, 10 death sentences were recorded and 63 people were on death row according to Amnesty International.
On 22 January 2013, Mali was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. Regarding the death penalty, the country delegation said that no law had been adopted for its abolition yet, even if a draft bill was before the National Assembly since 2008. The delegation added that a de facto moratorium has been in place since the 1980s and all death sentences are automatically commuted to life imprisonment.
On December 19, 2016, Mali voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly. It did the same in 2008, 2010 and 2012. However, in 2016 Mali di not co-sponsored the text.