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18 January 2013
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Crisis Update: Amid military operation to end insurgency in northern Mali,
ICC announces investigation of atrocity crimes committed
 
1. Amnesty International –Mali: ICC investigation of conflict crimes a key step towards justice
2. International Federation for Human Rights –Military intervention in Mali: Human rights and humanitarian law compliance is crucial to fighting terrorism
3. Human Rights Watch – Mali: Islamists Should Free Child Soldiers
4. Roméo Dallaire and Kyle Matthews, National Post –The Price of Inaction in Mali
 

Crisis Update: Amid military operation to end insurgency in northern Mali,
ICC announces investigation of atrocity crimes committed
 
 
Civilians remain at risk of gross human rights violations, which may amount to war crimes, as the political and humanitarian crisis in Mali continues. In April 2012, rebel groups overtook several major towns in the north of Mali and declared the territory an independent state. Civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, reported that, beginning in April and continuing throughout much of 2012, the rebels committed extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, torture, and enforced disappearances against civilians in the north, while government soldiers tortured and forcibly disappeared those accused of spying both in the north and closer to the capital. As recently as 15 January 2013, Human Rights Watch called on the rebels to release the hundreds of child soldiers currently within their ranks and training facilities. Following consideration of a July 2012 request by Mali's Minister of Justice, Malick Coulibaly, referring the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the basis that national authorities would be unable to investigate the crimes committed, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, announced an investigation into the year long conflict. Ms. Bensouda reported that destruction committed since the crisis began may constitute war crimes.
 
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also responded to the initial crisis swiftly, at first working with the Malian government to facilitate dialogue with the rebel groups, and then in November 2012, agreeing to deploy a military support mission to quell the insurgency in the north. Mali had requested such military assistance in October, and ECOWAS received authorization from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in December, following the Council’s request and receipt of a report on the situation from the Office of the Secretary-General. In January 2013, again at the request of the Malian government, and following authorization by the UNSC, France joined the effort, providing ground troops, aircraft and armored tanks.
 
The military operation began on 15 January with the deployment of French troops who will be joined by African forces, in transit as of 18 January. The operation has already severely affected the civilian population, with Medecins Sans Frontieres reporting on 13 January that the bombardment of civilian areas had prevented medical supplies from reaching hospitals and clinics. Reports also surfaced that militants may be hiding among civilians in northern towns, making it more difficult for French forces to target them and giving rise to fears that rebels may use civilians as human shields. The conflict is furthermore contributing to an already serious influx of Malian refugees into neighboring countries and to the over 200,000 internally displaced, leading the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to prepare contingency plans and reinforce its teams in the area in anticipation of further increases. Several civil society organizations, including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH), have called on all parties to ensure compliance with humanitarian and human rights law amid hostilities.
 
 
Read the newsletter released on 16 January from the Coalition for the ICC, featuring related press releases, statements and articles.
 
1. Mali: ICC investigation of conflict crimes a key step towards justice
Amnesty International
16 January 2013
 
Today’s announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will open an investigation into crimes under international law committed over the past year of conflict in Mali is a crucial step towards justice for the victims, Amnesty International said.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s announcement comes after a request from the Malian government last July to investigate cases of crimes under international law committed since January 2012, including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances and the use of child soldiers. (…)

"Although much attention is focused on the situation in northern Mali, it’s crucial that the ICC looks at the full scope of alleged crimes across the country, including those carried out by Malian security forces,” said Rigaud. (…)

Tuareg and Islamist armed opposition groups have committed human rights abuses, including torture and killings of captured Malian soldiers, rape of women and girls and recruitment of child soldiers. They have also attacked and destroyed cultural and religious sites.

Malian security forces have also committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including the extrajudicial executions of Tuareg civilians, indiscriminate shelling of a Tuareg nomadic camp and killing livestock which the nomadic population rely on for survival.

Crimes are not confined to the north of the country. Amnesty International has also documented cases of torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and attacks against political leaders, journalists and other people who expressed dissent peacefully in the south, where the capital Bamako lies. (…)

"The ICC will only ever be able to prosecute a small number of cases. It is essential that effective measures are taken to strengthen the Malian justice system to investigate and - when there is sufficient admissible evidence - prosecute other crimes that the ICC is unable to deal with and to ensure truth and full reparation for victims to help them rebuild their lives,” said Rigaud. (…)
 
Read press release from FIDH and its Malian member organization AMDH welcoming the opening of an ICC investigation in Mali.
 
2. Military intervention in Mali: Human rights and humanitarian law compliance is crucial to fighting terrorism
International Federation for Human Rights
16 January 2013
 
FIDH and its member organisation in Mali, AMDH, note the legality of French and Malian military intervention against Jihadist groups in central Mali launched at the request of the country’s President. FIDH and AMDH call upon all belligerents to respect international humanitarian law and protect the civilian population. (…)
 
"A military intervention is always a failure. However, in Mali’s current circumstances, the Malian authorities themselves have asked the international community, especially France and ECOWAS, for help, and, the UN Security Council has authorized such intervention in two resolutions" said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. (…)

The observance of human rights and humanitarian law is even more important now than in the past to restore the rights of all Malians”according to Mr Moctar Mariko, AMDH President.“The ability of the States engaged in this conflict to guarantee civilians’ physical integrity is a crucial condition of sucess, he added. (…)

In this context, FIDH and AMDH remind parties that, on 18 July 2012, Mali referred the situation in the country since January 2012 to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor. The Court has thus opened a preliminary investigation. These crimes, committed by Northern armed groups since the beginning of their offensive, are outlined in FIDH report, War Crimes in North Mali.

Our member organisations remind all concerned that if the ICC finds jurisdiction over crimes committed during the current conflict, any belligerent could be brought before the Court. (…)
 
 
3. Mali: Islamists Should Free Child Soldiers
Human Rights Watch
15 January 2013
 
Islamist armed groups occupying northern Mali should immediately release all child soldiers within their ranks and end the military conscription and use ofthose under 18, Human Rights Watch said today. With France carrying out aerial bombardment since January 11, 2013, to block the Islamists from advancing farther south, Human Rights Watch also urged rebel groups to remove children immediately from training bases in or near Islamist military installations.

Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch by phone since January 8 – when hostilities between the Islamist groups and Malian army intensified – described seeing many children, some as young as 12, taking active part in the fighting. Witnesses also said that children were staffing checkpoints in areas that have come under aerial bombardment by the French or are near active combat zones. The Islamic groups – Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – have recruited, trained, and used several hundred children in their forces since occupying Northern Mali in April 2012. (…)

The Islamists’ use of children apparently began shortly after they seized control of the north in April and has continued steadily since then. Witnesses have observed the children staffing checkpoints, conducting foot patrols, riding around in patrol vehicles, guarding prisoners, and preparing food in numerous locations controlled by the groups. Children from both Mali and Niger have been recruited. The witnesses have described how within Mali, the Islamists have recruited substantial numbers of boys from small villages and hamlets, particularly those where residents have long practiced Wahhabism, a very conservative form of Islam. (…)

Mali is a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, which bans the recruitment and use in hostilities of children under the age of 18 by non-state armed groups. Recruitment of children under age 15 into armed forces for their active use in armed conflict constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court. (…)

“All armed groups should immediately release the child soldiers they recruited and help them to rejoin their families, Dufka said. “Islamist group leaders should know that recruitment and use of child soldiers is a war crime.”
 
 
4. The Price of Inaction in Mali
Roméo Dallaire and Kyle Matthews
National Post
15 January 2013
 
Roméo Dallaire is a distinguished senior fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Right Studies at Concordia University and a Canadian Senator. Kyle Matthews is the Senior Deputy Director of the Will to Intervene Project at Concordia and a New Leader at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.
 
Last week the head of the African Union, Thomas Boni Yayi, travelled to Ottawa to drum up support for an African-led initiative to restore the territorial integrity of Mali. After a coup d’état by the Malian military last March, the northern part of the country was forcefully occupied by armed-Islamist groups. (…)
 
Following a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Yayi said he would welcome NATO’s support. And Canada in particular could play an important role. (…) Yet Harper announced that Canada will not participate in any military intervention, and will continue to work with western allies and African countries to seek a diplomatic solution.
 
Yayi warned that diplomacy will not work: “Dialogue with the forces of evil is futile.” (…)
 
Severe human rights abuses in one country usually have security implications for the entire region. More than 400,000 people have fled the north seeking refuge in the south and neighbouring countries. What is taking place in Mali will not stay within Mali for much longer. (…)
 
We cannot stand idle, expecting Mali to become a functioning democracy before we begin to contemplate supporting the African Union, which was granted a seal of approval by the UN Security Council this past December. (…)
 
In 2005, under Canada’s leadership, all countries seated at the United Nations endorsed the Responsibility to Protect, agreeing to take action when a country is unable or unwilling to protect its population from mass atrocities. (…)
 
Leaving Canada empty-handed, the chief of the African Union reminded us that “each day that we wait is a bad thing.” France understood this warning. Is anybody else in the West listening?
 

Thanks to Inara Khan for compiling this listserv.
 

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