UN investigators into violence in Mali have told the Security Council of evidence that security forces committed war crimes, while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated crimes against humanity.
The allegations are made in a massive 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a three-member panel probing events in Mali for six years after it spiraled into conflict in 2012.
The inquiry, whose conclusions have not yet been made public, recommends setting up a court that specialises in prosecuting international crimes.
“The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that the Malian defence and security forces committed war crimes, including violence to the life and person of civilians and persons hors de combat suspected of being affiliated or cooperating with extremist armed groups,” says the report, seen by AFP.
The landlocked Sahel country descended into violence in 2012 when ethnic Tuareg separatists launched an insurgency in the north of the country, which was then overtaken by an armed campaign by jihadists.
France, the colonial power, launched a military operation in 2013 that scattered the jihadists.
They then regrouped and expanded their campaign into central Mali, inflaming a region with ethnic rivalries, before advancing into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes.
“The Commission considers that extremist armed groups committed crimes against humanity and war crimes,” the report said.
These include “murder, maiming and other cruel treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, hostage-taking and attacks against personnel of humanitarian organizations and MINUSMA,” the UN peacekeeping force in Mali.
The report was drawn up by a commission comprising Lena Sundh of Sweden, Simon Munzu of Cameroon and Vinod Boolell, a Mauritian, who were appointed by the UN secretary general in January 2018.
They handed their report to UN chief Antonio Guterres in mid-2020, and he sent it last week to the 15-member Security Council.
The investigation details the scale of bloodshed, including inter-ethnic violence, that engulfed troubled country.
It highlights an attack that took place in volatile central Mali on June 17, 2017.
Members of an armed group called Dan Na Ambassagou, which is drawn from the Dogon community, retaliated for the death of one of their members by attacking several hamlets of ethnic Fulani, also called Peuls, killing at least 39 civilians, including children.
The raids marked the beginning of “systematic” attacks on the Fulani in Koro, the report said.
“The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that those acts amount to murder that constitutes a crime against humanity,” it said.
Unlike other UN reports, the conclusions of the International Commission of Inquiry can be used as a legal basis for possible prosecution.