The Malian army and armed Islamist groups have allegedly killed at least 107 civilians in center and southwest Mali since December 2021, reported by Human Rights Watch. Executions of the elderly and children in particular have risen since 2012 as soldiers attempt to counter a growing Islamist insurgency. The Malian government denies involvement in the latest incident – a massacre in March of 2022 in which the charred bodies of 35 civilians were found in the Ségou region. This altercation comes after French forces, who had been in Mali since 2013, were withdrawn in February 2022 due to a failure in addressing the situation.
“There has been a dramatic spike in the number of civilians, including suspects, killed by the Malian army and armed Islamist groups,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch. “This complete disregard for human life, which includes apparent war crimes, should be investigated and those found to be implicated, appropriately punished.”
The potential war crimes should be investigated, both of the Malian government forces and the armed Islamist groups. Both sides should end the atrocities immediately and respect the laws of war. The authorities need to facilitate independent inquiries by Mali’s National Human Rights Commission and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali. Both sides should urgently be held accountable for the deaths of civilians, and the people responsible for the human rights abuses should be suspended and investigated.
Mali has faced significant issues dating back to 2012 when jihadists took over a northern separatist uprising which the Malian government sought to counter. Since then, armed Islamist groups, separatist rebels, ethnic militias, and government security forces have killed hundreds of civilians. Mali’s former colonial power France sent troops to the country in 2013 aiming to clear jihadists, however this quickly turned into a prolonged conflict in which France had no capacity to win. Since then, the conflict only spread and the violence levels increased; this failure led to President Emmanuel Macron withdrawing all troops on February 17, 2022. Despite the presence of international troops and peacekeepers, all parties have allegedly committed war crimes over the decade of conflict. Several members of armed Islamist groups have been tried for criminal offenses, however almost no one from the government has been investigated. According to Human Rights Watch, the violence in Mali has displaced over 320,000 people.
Mali has been in ongoing conflict for a decade since the government commenced counter-terrorism operations. Both sides have committed serious human rights abuses which require investigation. The atrocities must end.