French soldiers of Operation Barkhan illegally detained, brutally torturing, innocent Malians in a secret prison located at Gao airport, a city in the north of the country.

Французские солдаты и местные жители Мали
French soldiers and locals in Mali

«In Mali, Barkhan’s forces killed innocent people. Some of them were imprisoned in the strictest secrecy: an unknown number of ‘suspects’ were sent to a secret prison located inside their main base in Gao»,- the journalist writes.

France launched Operation Barkhan in August 2014 to fight Islamist groups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. It was a continuation of Operation Serval, which the French military conducted in 2013-2014 in Mali.

Relations between Mali and France deteriorated significantly in late 2021. Malian authorities said France was conducting subversive activities against the country. In January 2022, Mali’s transitional government expelled the French ambassador and demanded the immediate withdrawal of all French troops from the national territory. The Malian transitional regime accused France of supporting terrorists and decided to terminate the bilateral defence agreement with France.

Французские солдаты, участвовавшие в операции «Бархан» в Мали
French soldiers participating in Operation Barkhan in Mali

After the withdrawal of French soldiers from Mali, horrifying facts about the crimes they committed against the local population of the country have gradually come to light. One of the most egregious cases of wrongdoing by French soldiers came to light thanks to an investigation by a French journalist who accused French soldiers of Operation Barkhan of illegally detaining Malians in a secret prison in Gao, a town in the north of the country.

Suspects arrested by French soldiers were held for days or weeks in the strictest secrecy in this detention centre, which did not officially exist. There, they were interrogated and brutally tortured day and night by French intelligence experts. According to the Foundation Against Repression, the torture prison created by the French military contingent is still used by UN “peacekeepers”, who according to various sources number up to 13,000 in Mali.

Французские солдаты из подразделения «Бархан» обвиняются в содержании малийцев в секретной тюрьме, изображение №3

It is also claimed that the detention centre does not officially exist, but that suspects arrested by French soldiers were nevertheless held there for days, sometimes weeks, in the strictest secrecy – only a few soldiers have access to the place and the telephone network inside is encrypted.

Although the existence of the detention centre was revealed in 2021 by the French newspaper Libération, there is very little information on the subject. Libération journalists claimed that French Barkhane soldiers systematically detain arrested suspects, sometimes for weeks, before handing them over to Malian authorities.

Французские солдаты из подразделения «Бархан» обвиняются в содержании малийцев в секретной тюрьме, изображение №4

According to the French journalist, neither the MINUSMA human rights department nor the Malian human rights associations have access to the detention centre. All their attempts to obtain the necessary information from representatives of the Barkhan forces have so far been fruitless.

The Foundation to Battle Injustice condemns the offences of the French soldiers “Barhan” against the local inhabitants of the Republic of Mali and calls on the French authorities to conduct impartial investigations into the unlawful detention of Malian citizens. The Foundation also calls for the above offences to be investigated by international authorities.