Malian security forces have killed civilians in the town of Niono in central Mali, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported on Saturday. HRW said that Mali's army has been targeting ethnic groups [Reuters report] associated with rebels in the north, particularly Tuaregs and Arabs. HRW called on Mali's government, as well as France and West African nations to ensure that civilians are protected from violence. During the ongoing fighting between the Malian government and Islamist rebels, HRW has accused both sides of committing human rights violations, and urged rebel groups earlier this week to release all child soldiers [press release].
Mali has drawn increased international scrutiny recently regarding political violence and alleged human rights abuses. On Friday the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] issued a report saying that the tumultuous situation in Mali has led to human rights violations [JURIST report]. International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced earlier this week that her office has officially launched an investigation [JURIST report] into possible war crimes committed in Mali. 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 HRW 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.