Status: abandoned process or policy

In Mali, a law on the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders) has been in place since 2018, making it the third country in Africa to adopt a protection policy for defenders (after Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso). Although this is a significant first step towards the protection of defenders, Mali is riddled with problems concerning effective governance, due to the presence of different armed groups in the region and two recent coups d’état overthrowing the government.

The development of a draft law on human rights defenders was initiated by the Malian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (COMADDH) in 2014, and further advanced during a workshop organised by Protection International on 29 October 2015. On 12 January 2018, the Law No. 2018-003 on Human Rights Defenders was adopted, followed by an decree of implementation in 2020.

After the coups in August 2020 and May 2021, Mali’s membership to the African Union was suspended. This means that Mali does not fall under the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and is currently not monitored by this mechanism. Previously, the Special Rapporteur did not publish any information on Mali except for a press release on attacks in the Kidal region in 2014. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders has not published any country report on Mali, nor have they requested to visit the country.

One of the few remaining mechanisms monitoring the human rights-related work by the Malian government is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and the last report was developed and published in 2017. In this report, the adoption of the draft bill by the National Assembly is applauded, but no additional information or analysis is provided on the situation of defenders.

Mali is labelled as “repressed” by the Civicus Monitor 2022, which means that “active individuals and civil society members who criticise power holders risk surveillance, harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, injury and death”. Freedom House Index 2022 classified Mali as “not free, according a particularly low score concerning political rights. The report mentions strong suppression by the government, especially surrounding the elections in 2020, through direct physical violence and killings, as well as censure through social media restrictions. With the military council as acting head of state committing human rights atrocities and war crimes, there is little hope for progress on the development of effective protection mechanisms anytime soon.


Al Jazeera (2021, June 2). Mali suspended from African Union, threatened with sanctions. Al Jazeera,

Amnesty International (2021). Mali 2021. Available on

République de Mali (2018). Loi N°2018–003/ du 12 janvier 2018 relative aux défenseurs des droits de l’homme. Journal Officiel de la République de Mali,

République de Mali (2020). Décret N°2020-0087/P-RM du 18 février 2020 fixant les modalités d’application de la loi relative aux défenseurs des droits de l’homme. Journal Officiel de la République de Mali,

UN General Assembly (2017). National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Mali. A/HRC/WG.6/29/MLI/1, available on

Updated on 10/06/22

International Service for Human Rights
“The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights urged Mali to adopt the implementation decree on the law for the protection...
Journal Officiel de la République du Mali
On the 21st of February 2020, the Republic of Mali adopted Decree No. 2020-0087/P-Rm establishing the modalities of application of...
Sécrétariat du gouvernement Jounal Officiel
On January 12, 2018, the Malian government adopted Law No. 2018-003 on human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders). The law...