Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in northern Mali and dozens have been subjected to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial executions or sexual violence including rape, Amnesty International said May 16. In a report “Mali: Five months of crisis, armed rebellion and military coup,” Amnesty International catalogues a litany of human rights violations committed against the backdrop of a food shortage affecting 15 million people in the Sahel region. “After two decades of relative stability and peace, Mali is now facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty’s West Africa researcher who just returned from a three week research mission to the country. “The entire north of the country has been taken over by armed groups who are running riot. Ten of thousands of people have fled the region, creating a humanitarian crisis in Mali and in neighbouring countries.”
During the research mission, Amnesty International delegates visited the Malian capital Bamako and four refugee sites in Niger, about 200 kilometres north of the capital Niamey. According to testimonies taken by Amnesty, women and girls were raped, sometimes collectively, by armed men including by members of the MNLA, particularly in Menaka and Gao. Delegates found evidence of the presence of child soldiers within the ranks of the armed Tuareg and Islamists groups who took control of the north of the country.
Amnesty said it has collected several testimonies indicating pressure from members of the Ansar Eddin armed group on local residents to change their behavior in accordance with their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. The report cited intimidation and physical violence, including deliberate and arbitrary killings. (Amnesty International, May 16 via AllAfrica)