International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites; JURIST backgrounder] Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Wednesday that her office is opening a preliminary examination [press release] of the recent violence in Mali [JURIST news archive]. Bensouda said that she had received a letter [text, PDF, in French] from Malian government officials requesting an ICC investigation. The letter also indicated that Malian national courts are unable to prosecute the perpetrators of the violence. Bensouda noted that the ICC has been monitoring the situation in Mali:
My Office has been following the situation in Mali very closely since violence erupted there around 17 January 2012. On 24 April, as instances of killings, abductions, rapes and conscription of children were reported by several sources, I reminded all actors of ICC jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Mali or by Malian nationals. On 1 July, I stressed that the deliberate destruction of the shrines of Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu may constitute a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.Bensouda said that her office would assess whether the criteria for opening a formal investigation under Article 53.1 of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] are fulfilled.
Malian Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly said last week that he would ask the ICC to open an investigation [JURIST report]. In May Amnesty International reported that Mali is facing its worst human rights crisis [JURIST report] since it gained independence in 1960. Human Rights Watch released a similar report in April claiming that all sides to the conflict are committing war crimes [JURIST report]. Earlier in April the ICC said they would monitor the situation [JURIST report] in Mali for potential crimes under the ICC's jurisdiction. All of this has come after Malian soldiers took control of the government [JURIST report] and suspended the constitution in March. 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 [JURIST reports]. The turmoil began when Taureg rebels attacked Malian soldiers [Al Jazeera report].