Mali’s government has formally asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate whether crimes under international law have been committed during the invasion in the north of the country.
The prosecutor, Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement issued at The Hague, the seat of the court, that she has instructed her office to examine whether the situation in Mali meets the criteria for a formal investigation under the Rome Statute, the law which set up the court.
She said Mali’s request was made by a delegation headed by the Minister of Justice, Malick Coulibalyat, during a meeting at the ICC on Wednesday.
“The Government of Mali submits that the Malian courts are unable to prosecute or try the perpetrators,” Bensouda said.
The probe is the fourth asked for by African members of the ICC. Earlier this month, the Mali contact group of the Economic Community of West African States also asked for an ICC investigation.
Bensouda said in her statement that her office had been following the situation in Mali closely since violence erupted in January.
“On 24 April, as instances of killings, abductions, rapes and conscription of children were reported by several sources, I reminded all actors of ICC jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Mali or by Arab nationals,” Bensouda said. “On 1 July, I stressed that the deliberate destruction of the shrines of Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu may constitute a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.”
She said she would make public her decision on whether to launch a formal investigation.