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Mali to ask ICC to investigate potential war crimes

The government of Mali plans to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] to investigate attacks in its northern region, including the destruction of ancient religious shrines, according to its Justice Ministry. Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly said in an interview that the government would ask the ICC to investigate the attacks [Reuters report], which allegedly resulted in the torture and killing of individuals in the rebel-controlled north. ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official profile] told reporters last week that attacks by Islamist rebels on religious monuments in Mali will not be tolerated [JURIST report]. Bensouda said that the rebels' destruction of tombs of ancient Muslim saints in Timbuktu may amount to war crimes. The rebels said the saints' tombs are idolatrous. Bensouda said the destruction of the religious and historical landmarks is a violation of the Rome Statute [text] and called on the rebels to end attacks on such buildings.

Recent violence in Mali has raised international concern. In May Amnesty International released a report saying 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. 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.

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