The NGO calls on the African Union and ECOWAS to put pressure on the country “to put an end to these violations”
July 24 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced this Monday new massacres perpetrated by the Mali Army and alleged combatants of the Wagner Group, weeks after the United Nations denounced the massacre of more than 500 people in the town of Moura in March 2022.
As the NGO has learned, the Malian Armed Forces and foreign fighters have summarily executed and forcedly disappeared several dozen civilians since December 2022, destroying property and torturing detainees.
HRW has interviewed 40 people who have knowledge of these incidents, including witnesses to abuse, relatives of victims, community leaders, among others. Subsequently, she has sent letters to the justice and defense ministers, detailing her findings.
Last Thursday, the Malian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by stating that it was not aware of any violation of Human Rights, but added that Justice has opened a judicial investigation in the framework of these complaints.
Interviewees have pointed out that soldiers committed abuses during military operations in response to the presence of Islamist armed groups. Witnesses have indicated the involvement of non-French speaking foreign gunmen whom they described as “white” and “Russian”.
In addition, witnesses have denounced that soldiers have even shot at point-blank range from military helicopters against civilians in civilian places such as markets.
On the other hand, the NGO has urged the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to express their concern about the “serious abuses committed by the Malian Armed Forces and the alleged allied fighters of the Wagner Group” in order to increase pressure on the authorities “to put an end to these violations and hold those responsible accountable”, says the deputy director for Africa of HRW, Carine Kaneza Nantulya.
The researcher referred to the request made a few weeks ago by Mali to the UN Security Council to withdraw the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), warning that “the imminent withdrawal” of the ‘blue helmets’ makes it “more crucial than ever for the Malian authorities to protect civilians and prevent further abuses during military operations”.
“The Malian authorities will realize that the departure of the peacekeepers will seriously affect the protection of civilians and the control of abuses by all sides,” Nantulya explained.
For his part, the political analyst on the Sahel, Yvan Guichaoua, explained that “by demanding the withdrawal of MINUSMA, the Malian authorities are placing themselves in an exclusive security relationship with Wagner, whose way of waging war threatens civilians and whose reliability is questionable, as shown by recent events in Russia.”
In this sense, the NGO recalls that all parties to the conflict are obliged by International Humanitarian Law to protect civilians, prohibiting murder, torture and mistreatment, therefore those who commit serious violations of the laws of war with criminal intent are responsible for war crimes.