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Mali: Sharia Law Imposed in North

(Aug. 14, 2012) Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) have occupied northern Mali, controlling about 60% of the country, since late March 2012. These two armed groups have as a goal the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law) throughout the country. (Forcing Sharia Law in Mali, AFP (Aug. 9, 2012), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201208091477.1_56d1004a7d727e22; Samuel Blackstone, People Are Beginning to Freak Out About the Growing Islamist State in Africa, BUSINESS INSIDER (Aug. 10, 2012).)

In recent incidents, extreme forms of Sharia justice have been imposed in the region. For example, in June, MUJAO members confiscated and burned cartons of cigarettes and whipped people found smoking. In the previous month, members of the same group stopped a soccer game and prevented young people from watching television. There were anti-Islamic demonstrations in response. A couple was lashed for having a child out of wedlock. It has also been reported that adulterers have been stoned, thieves have had their hands cut off, and women have been made to wear the veil. (AFP, supra; Blackstone, supra.)

Furthermore, the extremists have destroyed some of Mali's cultural treasures, including ancient Muslim shrines in Timbuktu. These sites had recently been added to a UNESCO list of endangered World Heritage places. (AFP, supra.)

The unrest in northern Mali in recent months has resulted in 400,000 displaced people, half of whom have crossed the borders into camps in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger. (Burkina Faso Diplomat Holds Talks in Mali, AL JAZEERA (Aug. 7, 2012); see also Constance A. Johnson, International Criminal Court / Mali: Preliminary Investigation Launched into Recent Violence, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (July 23, 2012).)