The video shows men tied up in the back of a truck and dragged half-naked on the ground. This disturbing footage was shot in the military camp of Kati, near the Malian capital Bamako. The camp served as the headquarters of the junta that deposed president Amadou Toumani Touré in March. Soldiers and officers loyal to Touré have been detained at this camp for the past two months. The scene is extremely brutal, and proves that loyalist soldiers (“red berets”) have been treated violently while in detention.
The beginning of the video shows three half-naked men lying in the back of an army truck, their hands and feet tied up. A soldier is filming them with his mobile phone. At the 14th second, the person filming turns his camera, and catches a glimpse of several other men in military clothes who are also filming the truck with their mobile phones. At the 23rd second, the video shows other soldiers dragging yet another prisoner towards the truck. He is lying on the ground and his hands and feet are bound as the soldiers drag him and repeatedly kick him. It appears likely that the same treatment was inflicted on the prisoners lying in the back of the truck.
WARNING: The following video may shock viewers.
Here’s a translation of what is overheard in the video (the soldiers are talking in Bambara, Mali’s national language):
“Cut their father’s balls off. It’s for Mali. If you die for Mali, you’ve lost everything”.
“I’m getting this on camera.”
“Drag him! Drag him like a dog!”
“Have you ever met God?”
These images were posted on the Internet on June 24, but according to our Observers in Bamako, they were shot right after the clashes between “green berets” (former rebel soldiers) and “red berets” (loyalist soldiers) last April. On April 30, soldiers loyal to ousted president Touré tried to attack three strategic points held by the rebels, who had led a successful coup to overthrow the government on March 22. The soldiers targeted the state radio and television building, the Kati headquarters camp and the airport. But this attempted loyalist uprising failed after several hours of intense combat. Afterwards, the green berets led a ruthless manhunt for loyalists across all of Bamako. Those arrested were brought to the Kati camp. According to the Red Cross, whose personnel had access to the camp, 47 military men, ranging from high-ranking officials to foot soldiers, were taken into custody.
Last week, the junta officials who make up Mali’s transitional government (known as the CNRDRE) agreed to transfer the prisoners from the camp to the military police station in Bamako, as requested by their lawyers. The transfers began on June 23 for higher-ranking officers and is expected to continue in the coming days for regular soldiers.
The red berets have been charged with endangering the security of the state. Their lawyers claim argue that their eight weeks of detention in the Kati camp is illegal under Malian law, which indicates that if a soldier is arrested, he must be held in a military police station while awaiting trial. Many expressed concern at the fate of the soldiers in Kati: on June 13, a group of lawyers wrote an open letter to the justice ministry in which they denounced the treatment the Kati “hostages” were subjected to as cruel, inhuman and degrading. Several human rights organizations also expressed their concern.
A screen grab 49 seconds into the video, where a green beret is clearly visible. The "green berets" are memebers of the former military junta.
We showed this footage to the representatives of one of the NGOs that were allowed to go inside Kati. They preferred not to be quoted, but confirmed the video’s authenticity. They recognised the Kati barracks and the way the arms and legs were tied matches earlier prisoner accounts.
We also sent the video to the CNRDRE and asked for a comment, but have yet to hear back from them.
“My brother was locked up in total darkness for several weeks”
Amadou (not his real name) is the younger brother of a Malian army official held in Kati from May 4 to June 23. He asked for both him and his brother to remain anonymous because he said his family has been threatened by members of the CNRDRE.
My whole family, including my brother, was at home on April 30 when the red berets and the green berets faced off in Bamako. But on May 4, a junta officer called my brother and asked him to report to the city centre, accusing him of participating in an attempted coup. My brother went, and was arrested and taken to Kati. Members of my family went there on a daily basis after that, but we were never allowed to see him or speak to him.The situation evolved after a few weeks, thanks to the lawyers’ open letter. I was one of the first people to be allowed to visit the camp at Kati. It was early June, one month after my brother’s arrest. He was thinner, and was wearing the same clothes as the day of his arrest. He hadn’t been allowed to read, and hadn’t been given any meat for the past four weeks. At first, he was detained in a single, windowless cell that was dark all day. He told me that he had completely lost track of time because he never saw the sun. But even if it was very hard for him, at least he was never physically abused.Today, he is being held with the other high-ranking officers at the military police headquarters, where conditions are a little better. They are no longer hostages of the junta. But now there is another battle to fight, this time in court. Many of the military officials charged with high treason and attempting a coup are disputing these charges. But because of the political vacuum in Bamako, the current leaders continue to exert pressure on the justice system.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.