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4 July 2012

Mali: End war crimes in Timbuktu and in Northern Mali

FIDH and its member organisations in Mali, AMDH and IUDH, condemn the war crimes committed in northern Mali by armed Islamist groups and the MNLA, and call upon the international community to strengthen its efforts to halt abuses against the population and the world heritage sites in this region.

Mali: End war crimes in Timbuktu and in Northern Mali
In Timbuktu, islamists are destroying a shrine on 1 July 2012. Picture taken from a video by AFP.
Nearly four months after the takeover of Northern Mali by the combined forces of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), Al-Qaeda in the Islamist Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), violations of human rights are increasing. War crimes, such as summary executions, rape, recruitment of child soldiers, arbitrary detentions, looting and destruction of property (in particular priceless cultural places and places of worship), are committed.

"The people of northern Mali are subject to armed groups who kill, rape and destroy all symbols of humanity," declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. "We must stop this madness and only a strong commitment by the international community and African States will support the political transition in Bamako, which is key to restoring law and order in the North," she added.

After having ousted the MNLA from Gao on June 27, Islamist groups Ansar Dine, MUJAO, and AQIM control the three major cities of North Mali which are Timbuktu in the northwest, Gao in the northeast, and Kidal in the far northeast. Over the last three days, Ansar Dine has destroyed 7 of the 16 shrines of Muslim saints, as well as a sacred door of a 15th century mosque in Timbuktu. These cultural treasures are of inestimable historical value in the ancient cultural and intellectual centre of Sahelian Africa, and UNESCO has classified them as world heritage sites.

On 2 July, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, said that the attacks against civilians and places of worship could be classified as war crimes, and would fall under the jurisdiction of the Court. At the end of the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 30 May, the Malian government announced its intention to refer these cases to the ICC, and an official referral would be currently prepared in Bamako.

"Mali currently does not have the military capability to restore security in the North and has even less capacity to prosecute and try the perpetrators of these crimes," said Mr. Moctar Mariko, AMDH President. "Under these circumstances, Mali must resort to calling upon the ICC , which was created to address this type of situation," added Mr. Brahima Koné, UIDH President and Honorary AMDH President.

FIDH, AMDH, and UIDH also call for armed groups to immediately cease attacks against civilians and places of worship. Our organisations urge the international community to take the necessary measures to protect civilians, places of worship, and cultural goods of Northern Mali in accordance with Resolution 1674 (2006) of the UN Security Council. This resolution establishes the concept of the "responsibility to protect" civilians in case of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing, if the State concerned has not the will or ability to protect the threatened civilians.

According to this principle, as well as obligations under other sources of international and regional human rights and humanitarian law, the UN Security Council and the African Union should adopt resolutions and make decisions to support actions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to put an end to international crimes committed in Mali, and to guarantee a political transition which will lead to general elections in the country.
Last Update 25 March 2013
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