Mali / Complaint filed on behalf of 80 victims of rape and sexual violence during the occupation of northern Mali

Response by Malian judiciary to victims' need for justice is essential without delay

By International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)

PARIS, France, November 13, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The signatory organisations filed a complaint with a plaintiff triggering criminal proceedings today, for submission to the most senior examining magistrate of the Bamako Commune III Court of First Instance, for crimes against humanity and war crimes on behalf of 80 women and girls, for rape and sexual violence committed during the period that armed groups occupied northern Mali in 2012 and 2013.

Our organisations state that: “The Malian justice department needs to open a judicial investigation as soon as possible to investigate the crimes committed against women and girls during the conflict in the north of the country. This should be a priority for the Malian judicial and political authorities”.

Although many judicial investigations have been opened before the Bamako Commune III Court of First Instance against persons suspected of serious violations of human rights perpetrated in the north of Mali during the armed conflict, our organisations continue to deplore that the charges up to the present have nearly all been related to terrorism or criminal association, thus excluding violations of human rights. Likewise, charges for rape and other sexual violence, which are crimes against humanity and war crimes, have, up to now, been totally omitted from the scope of the investigations.

Since members of all the armed groups committed sexual crimes on a large scale, inquiries to establish the truth about what happened, to identify those responsible and to ensure justice for the victims should henceforth be a priority for the Malian judiciary.

“Since Malian national legislation has incorporated the classifications of crimes against humanity and war crimes set out in the Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is essential for the Malian justice department to adopt these charges”, our organisations declared and added: “These classifications make it possible to identify the real scope of the crimes perpetrated by bringing out their systematic or widespread character.”

It should be recalled that in January 2012, pro-independence and jihadist armed groups launched a major assault in the north of Mali. Since the Malian army was disorganised, poorly equipped, and destabilised by the military coup of 22 March 2012, in less than five months, the armed groups managed to take control of all the regions of northern Mali, in other words nearly two-third of the country, up to 50 km from the city of Mopti-Sévaré. Our organisations have evidence showing that during the offensive and the occupation of the conquered territories, members of all the armed groups, without exception, were guilty of mass sexual crimes, especially targeting women and girls of certain communities.

On 7 January 2013, the armed groups, especially MUJAO, Ançar Dine and Aqmi launched a major offensive and headed for Mopti. This triggered a counterattack on 11 January by the Malian armed forces (FAMA), with support from Serval, the French army operation that intervened at the request of Dioncounda Traoré, President of the transition government.