A UN official on Wednesday said that Islamists who have seized power in northern Mali are violating the human rights of women and children through enforced prostitution and recruitment of child soldiers. UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic [official profile] said [UN News Centre report] that rebel forces who seized power in northern Mali when soldiers overthrew Mali's president in March [Reuters report] have imposed a particularly harsh form of Sharia law [CFR backgrounder], enlisted child soldiers and forced women into marriages or prostitution. In his remarks to the press, Simonovic emphasized that the rebels' actions are particularly devastating for women in northern Mali:
The number of enforced marriages is increasing, the price to buy a wife is less than $1,000. After getting out of their families, the women, once forcefully married, quite often are by their so-called husbands married to other men after a very short while, which is in fact then a smokescreen for enforced prostitution and rapes that are taking place.The conflict in Mali has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis [Reuters report] in north-central Africa.
The humanitarian crisis in Mali [JURIST news archive] has drawn a great deal of international scorn and scrutiny. Two weeks ago Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that three armed Islamist groups in northern Mali are abusing the local population and recruiting child soldiers. Earlier in September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] condemned [JURIST report] human rights violations in Mali and called for international action to address the problems. Pillay stated that two militant Islamic groups, MUJAO and Ansar Dine, are recruiting child soldiers, committing cruel punishments such as amputations and stoning an unmarried couple to death, violating basic human rights, committing sexual violence against women, and executing individuals. In August officials from the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] were in Mali investigating [JURIST report] whether two Islamic groups, the MUJAO and Ansar Dine, had committed war crimes in Mali. According to Malian officials the Islamic groups had been committing human rights violations, including executing Malian soldiers, committing rapes, massacring civilians and recruiting child soldiers.