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Mali: Human Rights Crisis

(May 23, 2012) In the last few weeks, two prominent nongovernmental human rights organizations have released statements on the human rights crisis in Mali, where internal strife has led to a host of abuses reportedly committed by all participating factions and created a humanitarian crisis due to displaced civilian populations. In a statement released on April 30, 2012, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated, “[s]eparatist Tuareg rebels, Islamist armed groups, and Arab militias who seized control of northern Mali in April 2012 have committed numerous war crimes, including rape, use of child soldiers, and pillaging of hospitals, schools, aid agencies, and government buildings.” (Mali: War Crimes by Northern Rebels – Armed Groups Commit Rape, Use Child Soldiers, HRW (Apr. 30, 2012).) HRW added that it had “credible information that Malian army soldiers have arbitrarily detained and, in some instances, summarily executed ethnic Tuareg members of the security services and civilians.” (Id.)

On May 16, 2012, Amnesty International (AI) released a report on the worsening human rights conditions in Mali. According to Gaetan Mootoo, an AI researcher focusing on West Africa, “[a]fter two decades of relative stability and peace, Mali is now facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960.” (Mali's Worst Human Rights Situation in 50 Years, AI (May 16, 2012); Mali: Five Months of Crisis – Armed Rebellion and Military Coup, AI (last visited May 21, 2012).)

Among the problems reported by AI were extra-judicial killings by the government forces of unarmed individuals thought to be rebel spies and similar cases of execution, as well as cases of torture, of soldiers taken prisoner by the rebels. (Mali's Worst Human Rights Situation in 50 Years, supra.) AI called on all sides to respect international law, protect civilians, and allow humanitarian groups access to the region. Mootoo stated,

[w]ithout coordinated action to protect human rights, uphold international humanitarian law and the assistance of displaced and refugee populations, the entire sub-region risks destabilisation through the effects of political instability, armed conflict in the north and the food crisis which affects the whole of the Sahel. (Id.)