Military intervention in Mali: "Human rights and humanitarian law compliance is crucial to fighting terrorism"

FIDH and its member organisation in Mali, AMDH, note the legality of French and Malian military intervention against Jihadist groups in central Mali launched at the request of the country’s President. FIDH and AMDH call upon all belligerents to respect international humanitarian law and protect the civilian population.

On 10 January 2013, the Malian military, supported by the French Army, intervened to halt Islamist rebels who had taken the town of Konna in the center of Mali and were advancing towards Mopti and Sévaré in the South. Malian and French forces have engaged in land and aerial operations against the Jihadist groups, who have been settled in the North of the country since May 2012. Terrorist training camps and logistical facilities are located particularly in Léré, Gao, Kidal, Douentza and Aghabo. On 14 January, the rebels took the town of Diabaly, 400 kilometers from Bamako, in a Malian government controlled area .

"A military intervention is always a failure. However, in Mali’s current circumstances, the Malian authorities themselves have asked the international community, especially France and ECOWAS, for help, and, the UN Security Council has authorized such intervention in two resolutions" said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

On 21 December 2012, the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, unanimously adopted resolution 2085, approving the deployment of an African-led international support mission (MISMA). This mission is to help Mali recapture Northern areas that have been under Islamist control for over 8 months. On 10 January, Malian President Dioncounda Traoré asked France to help stop the Jihadists’ advance.

FIDH and AMDH welcomed the incorporation of human rights protection mechanisms into resolution 2085. These had been recommended by our organisations at recent meetings with members of the Security Council and other UN officials. The mechanisms are particularly important given some ten civilians death were reported during fighting in Konna. Moreover, 11 Malian soldiers are reported killed during this battle from the 11th January and witnesses speak of “dozens of Islamists corpses” found in the city of Konna.

The observance of human rights and humanitarian law is even more important now than in the past to restore the rights of all Malians” according to Mr Moctar Mariko, AMDH President. “The ability of the States engaged in this conflict to guarantee civilians’ physical integrity is a crucial condition of sucess, he added.

A state of emergency was decreed on 11 January throughout Malian territory. In Sévaré, Malian security services have commenced systematic searches of passengers at numerous checkpoints and arrested some people coming from Konna, found to have been concealing weapons in their baggage. Tension in the town run high after Ansar Dine declared: “We will make Mali and France pay for this war”. Unconfirmed rumours suggest that 9 individuals were arrested and summarily executed for their alleged links to Ansar Dine, whilst one person is reported to have disappeared after being accused of belonging to a Jihadist group.

In this context, FIDH and AMDH remind parties that, on 18 July 2012, Mali referred the situation in the country since January 2012 to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor. The Court has thus opened a preliminary investigation. These crimes, committed by Northern armed groups since the beginning of their offensive, are outlined in FIDH report, War Crimes in North Mali.

Our member organisations remind all concerned that if the ICC finds jurisdiction over crimes committed during the current conflict, any belligerent could be brought before the Court.

“The ICC must open an investigation in order to ensure that military operations are strictly compliant with international law and that those crossing the red line will be prosecuted”, said Mr Sidiki Kaba, FIDH Honorary President. “Likewise, threats to hostages and terrorist actions targeting the civilian population would constitute war crimes and the perpetrators will be brought to justice”.

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