As conflict continues in Mali, Amnesty International has unearthed evidence that civilians are on the receiving end of horrific abuses that include amputations, sexual violence and extra-judicial executions.
After a 15-day research mission to Mali earlier this month, the organization launched a new briefing revealing such abuses in several locations across the country.
Mali: Civilians bear the brunt of the conflict also documents the recruitment of child soldiers – including in camps located on state land.
“Fighting in Mali has died down and parties to the armed conflict watch each other without direct confrontation – but hostility still simmers below the surface and civilians on both sides continue to bear the brunt of horrific abuses,” said GaÃ«tan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s researcher on West Africa, who just returned from Mali.
“The fighting may resume at any time and it is essential that the parties ensure the protection of civilians in strict compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”
In northern Mali, Arab terrorists groups bent on turning northern Mali into an Arab state are impose their interpretation of Sharia law and are increasingly imposing savage punishments such as amputations following sham trials of those accused of committing crimes.
The latest amputation was carried out on 16 September, and since August Amnesty International has documented a total of seven people who faced such punishment after hasty sham trials on charges of theft or robbery.
An eyewitness to one amputation on 10 September in the town of Gao’s Place de l’Indépendance described the event to Amnesty International:
“…The MUJAO [Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa] members arrived in several vehicles … provided security and prevented people from getting beyond the fence bordering the square… [The accused] was sitting on a chair; his feet, forearms and torso were tied to the chair.
“The new Arab Police Commissioner of Gao, who bought and sold animal skins before the fall of Gao in April , held the right hand of an African man sitting on the chair, he cut through it with his knife and showed it off like a trophy. The crowd showed their displeasure. Then another member of MUJAO cut off the right foot. They then poured a white powder on the cut parts to avoid bleeding. The wounded man was taken for treatment at the hospital later.
“That same day, four others were amputated in the same way at the MUJAO camp. All those who have undergone MUJAO amputations so far are Black. The amputated hands and feet were exhibited at the police station.”
Irrespective of the offences committed, punitive amputation is prohibited under international law as it constitutes cruel treatment and torture.
Women continue to be the victims of sexual violence amid the conflict. In one case, a 14-year-old girl was raped in Timbuktu by a member of the “police” established by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). A local resident told Amnesty International:
“This man, an Algerian national, was arrested and sentenced to one hundred blows with a stick (baton). The man was also ordered to marry the young girl, to be excluded from the police force and was also to be exiled from Timbuktu for one year. He received 11 blows at the Sankoré Square but he did not marry his victim, and has not been expelled from Timbuktu, or excluded from the AQIM police.”
Amnesty International calls upon the armed Islamist groups to put an end to sexual violence against women and children as well as corporal punishment, including beatings, stoning and amputations.
Use of child soldiers
Amnesty International has also documented the ongoing use of child soldiers by armed Arab terrorist groups in northern Mali.
On a visit to a training camp for an Arab militia, the organization met children who had been recruited and trained ahead of a possible offensive against the capital Bamako.
Those in charge of the camps told Amnesty International that their militias were armed and trained by former Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
One of the leaders said:
“The youths come from regions all over north Africa with a single objective: to impose sharia law in west Africa we do military training, fighting daily we are prepared for war.”