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Mali: ICC investigation of war crimes a key step towards justice

Today’s announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will investigate crimes under international law committed in Mali over the past year is a crucial step towards justice for the victims, Amnesty International said today.

The ICC’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s announcement comes after the Malian government last July asked the legal body to investigate crimes carried out since January 2012, including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances and the use of child soldiers.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director Paule Rigaud said:

"This is an important opportunity to ensure justice for victims of crimes under international law committed in Mali over the past year, and sends an important message to those planning and committing such crimes that they cannot act with impunity and may be brought to justice.”

The war crimes are not confined to the north of the country. Amnesty has also documented cases of torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and attacks against political leaders, journalists and other people who expressed dissent peacefully in the south, where the capital Bamako lies.

Paule Rigaud said:

”Although much attention is focused on northern Mali, the ICC must look at the full scope of alleged crimes across the country, including those carried out by Malian security forces.”

Since the beginning of the armed conflict in northern Mali  a year ago, Amnesty has documented crimes under international law committed by all the parties to the conflict.

Tuareg and Islamist armed opposition groups have committed human rights abuses, including torture and killings of captured Malian soldiers, rape of women and girls and the recruitment of child soldiers. They have also attacked and destroyed cultural and religious sites.

The Malian security forces have also committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including the extrajudicial executions of Tuareg civilians, indiscriminate shelling of a Tuareg nomadic camp and killing livestock which the nomadic population rely on for survival.


Amnesty is also urging the government of Mali government to ensure justice, truth and reparation for all victims. Despite several enquiries being opened into some of these incidents, no cases have been brought before national courts.

Paule Rigaud added:

"The ICC will only ever be able to prosecute a small number of cases. It is essential that effective measures are taken to strengthen the Malian justice system to investigate and - when there is sufficient admissible evidence - prosecute other crimes that the ICC is unable to deal with and to ensure truth and full reparation for victims to help them rebuild their lives.”


On 18 July 2012, six months after the conflict began, Mali’s Minister of Justice Malick Coulibaly delivered a letter to the ICC Prosecutor, referring the situation in Mali on the basis that national authorities are unable to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

At the time, Amnesty urged the ICC Prosecutor to investigate fully crimes committed by all sides across the country.

The ICC announcement comes just days after French troops, at the request of the Malian government, launched a counter-offensive against armed Islamist groups to prevent the capture of cities in the south of the country.

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