Mali Refers Crimes Perpetrated in the North to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

press release

Photo: Présidence du Burkina-Faso
A delegation of Ansar Dine, the Islamist group which controls the north of Mali along with other groups, meets President Blaise Comporare of Burkiina Faso

FIDH and its member organisation in Mali, the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH), welcome the referral made by government of Mali to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate international crimes committed in Mali these past six months, and take those responsible to court. Our organisations urge the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC to open an investigation on these unpunished crimes as quickly as possible. We also call on Malian transition authorities and the international community to fully collaborate with the ICC.

As a State Party to the ICC since August 16, 2000, Mali is entitled to seek the intervention of the ICC, particularly since Malian courts are unable to prosecute or try perpetrators.

"The referral of these crimes by government of Mali to the ICC is an important action towards both the authors and the victims of most serious crimes, in order to ensure that these crimes immediately cease and that they do not remain unpunished", said Ms. Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Following a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 30 May 2012, the Malian government announced its intention to refer these cases the ICC. This statement was followed up by an official referral to the ICC, which happened today.

"We are convinced that the Malian government took the right decision in referring to the ICC", said Mr. Moctar Mariko, AMDH President. "The crimes we investigated are so serious that Malian justice, at present, does not have the capacity to effectively address them. The ICC was established for this type of situation and the population of the North now know that authors of these crimes will be held accountable for their actions", he added.

On 12 July 2012, FIDH and AMDH published a report entitled "War crimes in North Mali" (http://www.fidh.org/Crimes-de-guerr...) detailing crimes committed by armed groups in the North over the past six months. In this report, our organisations called for a referral to the ICC, considering the type of crimes perpetrated and the current inability for the Malian judiciary to investigate and prosecute the authors of these crimes.

"The information we received and communicated to the ICC clearly show that war crimes, and possibly, crimes against humanity, were perpetrated in the North of Mali", asserted Mr Patrick Baudouin, in charge of FIDH Legal Action Group (LAG). "The referral to the ICC is consistent and advisable in view of the complexity of the crimes concerned : summary executions, rapes and other sexual crimes, recruitment of child soldiers, attacks on places of worship and protected cultural goods, to name but a few", he added.

Background

In mid-January 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg rebel group, launched a rebellion for independence in the North, which swiftly overwhelmed the nation's army. In their fight, MNLA was helped by armed Islamist groups, namely Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine (Defenders of Islam), and the Movement for the Uniqueness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). In their march and the storming of major cities in the North, the rebels perpetrated war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

AMDH and FIDH published an investigative report on these international crimes committed by Islamist armed groups and MNLA in the North of Mali since the beginning of the offensive in mid-January 2012. FIDH and AMDH have been very concerned with the continuation of these crimes and called upon the international community to intensify its actions to re-establish legitimate authorities in Bamako and speed up the political transition, which is the only way to put an end to the crimes committed against civilians with complete impunity.

AMDH and FIDH identified dozens of war prisoners' executions, summary and extra-judicial executions, rapes and other sexual crimes, recruitment of child soldiers, hostage-takings, arbitrary detentions, lootings and destruction of goods, particularly of invaluable cultural goods and places of worship. The report presented testimonies and verified information on the rapes committed in Gao and Timbuktu since the storming of these two cities. The investigation thus identified about 50 rape cases and other sexual crimes against women and underage girls. Islamist groups also target children to enlist them as soldiers. Dozens of cases have been documented by our organisations in regard to the recruitment wave led by Ansar Dine. Children as young as 12 are believed to be in training camps only few kilometres from Gao. The investigation looked back to the summary execution of 153 Malian military men, sometimes by using rudimentary weapons, by Tuareg rebels and Islamist groups at Aguelhock 24 January, 2012.

All crimes were committed during the 6-month conquest of North of Mali by the combined forces of the Tuareg from MNLA and the Islamists from AQIM, Ansar Dine and MUJAO, and to a lesser extent, by self-defence groups and military men from the Malian army.

On the eve of the African Union's Summit of Heads of States and Governments in Addis Ababa, from 9 to 16 July, 2012, FIDH and AMDH made a number of recommendations to the Malian transition government and the international community for them to actively support the roadmap of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in order to put in place a government of national unity and an African security force.

"In order to stop war crimes in North of Mali, there is a need for a more legitimate government in Bamako, but also for support from the international community to African States in the region that are trying to find a solution to the Malian crisis ", said Mr. Sidiki Kaba, FIDH Honorary President. "There cannot be any quick solution in the North without a normalisation of the political system in the South. In this regard, decisions taken by the African Union and the Security Council of the United Nations are of tremendous importance. Meanwhile, civilians in the North are under the grip of armed, radical and retrograde Islamist groups" , he added.

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