Malian Court and CT specialized unit officials discuss best practices and challenges in investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating terrorism trials


Terrorism continues to represent a great threat to Mali. Recently, several terrorist attacks in the Timbuktu and Gao regions targeted the civilian population, as well as personnel of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The imposition of illegal taxes by terrorist groups is rampant and problematic, particularly as the groups occupy swathes of territory in the Douentza, Gao and Ménaka regions, as reported by MINUSMA recently.

Mali is exerting substantial effort to enhance the criminal justice response to these threats. In 2017, the Specialized Judicial Unit (Pôle Judiciaire Spécialisé) was created and operationalized. Since its inception, 176 individuals were prosecuted for terrorism-related cases.

To further enhance this response and improve the cooperation between different judicial entities involved in the process of the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of terrorism acts, a training was jointly organized by MINUSMA and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) from 21 June to 22 June, in Bamako, Mali. The activity gathered representatives of several Malian criminal justice institutions, including ten judges and prosecutors from the Bamako Court of Appeal and the Specialized Judicial Unit.

During this two-day training, several topics were discussed, focusing on the currently applicable counter-terrorism legal framework and progress regarding recent trials of terrorism cases.

Dr. Amado de Andrés, Regional Representative for West and Central Africa at UNODC emphasized that “there is a need to update the counter terrorism legal framework to include all forms of associations with any terrorist activity, such as incitement and apology for terrorism, while improving cooperation and coordination between the different criminal justice institutions involved in this process.”

Dr. de Andrés further added that the UNODC-MINUSMA trainings are targeted to addressing this need.

Several magistrates also described recent improvements to enhance trust between law enforcement actors and communities in rural areas. This critical role, previously filled by MINUSMA, has recently been supplemented by the work of Malian prosecutors, who in several new cases have collected testimony from victims of terrorism in rural communities. Some magistrates also called for the improvement and expansion of interpretation services in some provinces, to facilitate the dialogue between law enforcement actors and victims of terrorism.

Under the joint program of cooperation between UNODC-MINUSMA and Mali, technical support has been provided during the last few years to enhance the capacity of all counter-terrorism institutions in Mali. The recent training is a part of this program.