The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today formally opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Mali since January 2012 - including murder, torture and rape - with a focus on the northern part of the country.
Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in the country's north last January, following which radical Islamists seized control of the area. The renewed clashes in the north, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d'état in March have uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians over the course of 2012.
"Since the beginning of the armed conflict in January 2012, the people of Northern Mali have been living in profound turmoil," said the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
"At each stage during the conflict, different armed groups have caused havoc and human suffering through a range of alleged acts of extreme violence. I have determined that some of these deeds of brutality and destruction may constitute war crimes as defined by the Rome Statute," she stated, referring to the treaty that set up the Court.
Ms. Bensouda said that there is "a reasonable basis" to believe that the following crimes were committed: murder; mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; intentionally directing attacks against protected objects; the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court; pillaging; and rape.
"My Office will ensure a thorough and impartial investigation and will bring justice to Malian victims by investigating who are the most responsible for these alleged crimes," she stated in a news release issued by the Court.
Located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, the ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern - namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.