from Africa in Transition

Human Rights Watch Condemns Mali Rebel Atrocities

May 4, 2012

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Asch Harwood contributed to this post.

Further to my post yesterday of continued military control of Mali’s south, Human Rights Watch has released a troubling report on atrocities committed by Tuareg rebels in northern Mali. The catalogue is grim: rape, use of child soldiers, pillaging, summary executions, and amputations. The abuses appear to be centered on Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal.

The report is based, inter alia, on interviews of over one hundred victims, religious authorities, medical practitioners, traditional leaders, and other credible witnesses.

Complicating any response is the number of independent, although loosely allied, players implicated in these abuses: the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Islamist Ansar Dine, an additional unnamed local ethnic Arab militia, and other unidentified armed groups as well as opportunistic locals and prisoners recently sprung from a local jail.

And we cannot forget the region’s simmering food insecurity, which is likely to have a disproportionate impact on the estimated 284,000 refugees and internally displaced people uprooted by the conflict.

The Human Rights Watch report presents a horrific picture of conditions in northern Mali. As is characteristic of its reports, this one is dispassionate, clear, and credible. It is a wake up call to the international community about what is happening in a remote part of Africa.

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