Bamako — HUMAN rights groups have welcomed Mali's stated commitment to investigate alleged abuse of civilians by the security forces. The Defense Ministry announced the commitment, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) hailed as a meaningful step towards accountability. Last month, HRW documented how military counterterrorism operations in central Mali this year allegedly resulted in numerous human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances,torture, and arbitrary arrests against alleged supporters of Islamist armed groups. Tiéna Coulibaly, the Minister of Defense and Veterans, and other high-ranking military officials met HRW in the capital Bamako on Thursday, to discuss the findings. Officials expressed intent to open an investigation into the allegations in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. Corinne Dufka, associate Africa director at HRW, said the expressed support for investigating alleged military abuses recognised that counterterrorism operations depended on respect for human rights. "This is a significant step, but for full accountability, the military's disciplinary proceedings should be accompanied by appropriate criminal investigations by the Justice Ministry," Dufka said. A forthcoming HRW report will document serious abuses by Islamist armed groups in central Mali in 2017. These include summary executions of civilians and captured soldiers,destruction of schools as well as recruitment and use of children as soldiers. "The increase in Islamist armed group activity across central Mali and the Sahel shows that military respect for basic rights is crucial to restoring public confidence in state authorities," Dufka said. -
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