In the absence of a specific law criminalizing descent-based slavery in Mali, judicial authorities face difficulties in categorizing this offense based on the relevant Penal Code. To overcome these difficulties while waiting for a specific law to be passed, the Minister of Justice, Mahamadou Kassogué, issued a ministerial order (n°0000863 of 11 November 2021) on the management of cases related to descent-based slavery. This is not a coincidence, but rather the result of advocacy and awareness raising undertaken by the SlaFMig program and other actors in the sector, particularly through its training of judicial and administrative personnel on descent-based slavery held from 28 June to 3 July, 2021 at the Law, Decentralization and Local Development Research Lab (Laboratoire d’Étude et de Recherche en Droit, Décentralisation et Développement Local) (LERDDL). During a discussion with Ms. Brand Kehris, UN Under-Secretary General for Human Rights, Minister Kassogué spoke about the training program for magistrates on descent-based slavery.
Our program has indeed contributed greatly to the training and awareness raising of magistrates on the issue of descent-based slavery in their respective communities in Mali and elsewhere. This training has helped to better equip judges in the application of international and regional legal instruments for the eradication of discrimination and violence related to the practice of descent-based slavery. The Minister thus recalled in this order the instructions already given in letter N°0057/MJDH-SG of 17 December 2019 “to take all necessary measures to initiate criminal proceedings against all persons involved in acts related to the phenomenon and to consider the possibility of relocating certain cases to ensure the effectiveness of the procedures”. He also invited the Public Prosecutors to fight relentlessly against injustice and impunity for serious human rights violations, particularly the practice of descent-based slavery in western Mali.
This ministerial order of 11 November 2021 allows judges to effectively repress the practice of descent-based slavery in Mali. Indeed, since 2020 victims have been subjected to serious violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution of 25 February 1992. Article 2 of the Malian Constitution states that: “All Malians are born and remain free and equal in rights and duties. Any discrimination based on social origin, color, language, race, sex, religion and political opinion is prohibited”.
In addition, the United Nations (UN Under-Secretary General for Human Rights) has condemned the practice of descent-based slavery and has invited the Malian authorities to involve communities through religious and customary leaders in the process of adopting a law criminalizing this practice.
It therefore seems that the Malian state is finally taking responsibility in terms of the fight against descent-based slavery by ensuring the effective application not only of the Constitution, but also of the Penal Code before the adoption of a law criminalizing descent-based slavery in Mali.
Bamako, 09 December 2021 (Fousseini DIABATE)