International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Wednesday that her office has officially launched an investigation [press release] into possible war crimes committed in Mali. The decision was based on information gathered through preliminary investigations and used to publish a report [text, PDF] on the current situation in Mali. Bensouda claims there is sufficient evidence to believe war crimes including murder, mutilation, torture and rape have been committed in Mali. The investigation with focus primarily on the Northern regions of Mali where much of the violence has taken place. Even though violence is still ongoing, Bensouda emphasized the crucial role justice can play in the reconciliation process.
Violence in Mali has drawn much international attention for potential human rights abuses. Last week the interim president declared a state of emergency [JURIST report]. The prime minister of Mali, Cheick Modibo Diarra, was forced to resign [JURIST report] in December on state television after junta soldiers arrested him for attempting to leave the country in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis threatening the nation. In September Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported that three armed Islamist groups in northern Mali are abusing the local population and recruiting child soldiers [JURIST report]. Earlier that month 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. In August officials from the ICC were in Mali investigating [JURIST report] whether the same two Islamic groups had committed war crimes in Mali.