FIDH and its Malian member organisation, AMDH, welcome today's announcement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of the opening of an investigation into serious crimes committed in Mali since January 2012, specifying that "based on the information gathered to date, the investigation will focus on crimes committed in the three northern regions of Mali."
On 18 July 2012, the Malian government asked the ICC Prosecutor to open an investigation into international crimes committed in Mali since January 2012 and to bring the perpetrators at the highest level to justice.
" The opening of an ICC investigation into the very serious crimes committed in Mali since January 2012 is a major step towards ending the impunity of those responsible for these crimes and helping to restore lasting peace to the country, " commented Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
By referring its situation to the ICC Prosecutor, Mali, a State Party to the ICC Statute, has acknowledged that its domestic legal system lacks the capacity to bring the main perpetrators to justice.
" We believe the Malian government took the right decision by referring the situation to the ICC ," commented Moctar Mariko, AMDH President. " These crimes, which our organisation has been investigating for more than a year, are of such a serious nature that, in the current situation, the Malian justice system is unable to address them. The ICC was created for this type of situation and it's crucial that it intervenes and helps restore the rule of law, which has been trampled on ", he added.
On 12 July 2012, FIDH and AMDH published a report entitled War crimes in North Mali, detailing the crimes committed by armed groups in the North over the preceding six months, and calling for a referral of the situation to the ICC, given the nature of the crimes and the Malian legal system's current inability to investigate them and prosecute those responsible. This report was sent to the ICC, contributing to its preliminary analysis, and leading to today's decision to open an investigation.
" The information gathered relates to summary executions, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers, attacks on places of worship and protected cultural assets, and the targeting of civilian population ", said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and coordinator of the FIDH Litigation Action Group (LAG). " Although the Court's move is late in coming, more than six months after Mali's referral, it may now play a preventative role. All crimes committed in the last year, including those alleged to have been perpetrated during the current military operation, if they fall under the Court's jurisdiction and have not been investigated by the domestic courts, can be dealt with by the ICC. "
FIDH and AMDH call on the Court to embark on a strategy of communication and outreach in Mali as soon as possible. This is essential to enable victims and affected communities to best understand and make use of the ICC proceedings and play a full part in them.
Our organisations call on the Malian government, the ICC States Parties as well as AFISMA, the African-led International Support Mission to Mali set up under Security Council Resolution 2085, to cooperate effectively with the Court, particularly by providing it with all the necessary information, facilitating its access to witnesses and transferring to the Court any persons subsequently prosecuted.