All sides in the Malian conflict have committed war crimes [HRW press release] including summary executions, rape, the use of children as soldiers, and the pillaging of hospitals, schools, aid agencies and government buildings, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported Monday. HRW conducted a 10-day mission to Mali [JURIST news archive] in April and documented human rights violations by several groups, including the Tuareg National Movement for Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which seeks autonomy for the North, Ansar Dine, which wants to impose strict Sharia law throughout Mali, and an ethnic Arab militia, formally allied with the government, but which now has unclear objectives. Corinne Dufka, senior Africa researcher at HRW, stated that commanders for all sides need "to stop the abuses, ensure discipline over their fighters, and appropriately punish those in their ranks responsible for these crimes." The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs [official website] estimates that since January, nearly 284,000 residents have fled their homes as a result of the conflict, mostly to South Mali or neighboring countries.
Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] said they are monitoring the situation [JURIST report] for potential crimes under the ICC's jurisdiction. They noted that Mali has ratified the Rome Statute [text], which gives the ICC jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity that may have occurred since fighting began in January. The turmoil began when Taureg rebels attacked Malian soldiers [Al Jazeera report]. Many in the international community have expressed concern over the situation, including the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [JURIST reports]. All of this has come after Malian soldiers took control of the government [JURIST report] and suspended the constitution in March.