Mali: Executive Opposition to the Death Penalty but No Abolition
This week, Death Penalty Worldwide updated its entry of another abolitionist de facto state, Mali. No executions have been carried out in Mali since 1980, and two successive presidents have firmly expressed their opposition to the death penalty. In 1997, President Konaré commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment, and a decade later, current President Toumani Touré declared his commitment to abolition just before his cabinet approved an abolition bill in October 2007.
However, the tabling of the abolition bill in the National Assembly unleashed fierce opposition from Islamic groups and the political opposition. Under the leadership of Modibo Sangaré, the National Union for Renaissance (Union Nationale pour la Renaissance) demonstrated in Bamako in May 2008 to denounce the abolition bill as the result of Western “manipulation” on a small group of Malian intellectuals. For their part, some religious leaders rejected abolition as “fundamentally opposed” to the principles of Islam and expressed the fear that it would pave the way to anarchy and social instability. A former leader of the national bar association (the “Ordre des Avocats”), Kassoum Tapo, criticized the religious objections for being irrelevant, since the death penalty in Mali is a civil penalty and does not result from the application of sharia law. As a result of the stormy national discussion surrounding the death penalty, the debate of the abolition bill in the National Assembly has already been postponed several times.
Meanwhile, Mali continues to issue death sentences every year, at least 40 since 2008. However, as in Cameroon, discussed in last week’s blog, executions in Mali have been avoided through the use of executive clemency. In one recent high-profile example, last November a Tunisian national, Bechnir Simoun, was sentenced to death for the terrorist attack against the French Embassy in Bamako in January 2011. Two weeks later, President Toumani Touré granted him clemency and authorized his extradition to Tunisia for further judicial proceedings.
Our updated research on the death penalty in Mali is available here.