Human Rights Watch accuses Mali troops, Islamist fighters of human rights violations

Human Rights Watch accuses Mali troops, Islamist fighters of human rights violations

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report yesterday that incriminated Malian troops and Islamist fighters of Ansar-Dine, Mujao and their allies of extra-judicial killings, after several people have disappeared and found executed in war-hit towns of Konna and Sévaré.

The New York-based rights group also said Islamist groups have recruited child soldiers in their ranks. Some reports from the capital Bamako have suggested this week that several child soldiers have died in frontline while fighting against the army.

“Malian government forces summarily executed at least 13 suspected Islamist supporters and forcibly disappeared five others from the garrison town of Sévaré and in Konna during January 2013. Islamist armed groups in Konna executed at least seven Malian soldiers, five of whom were wounded, and used children as soldiers,” HRW said.

HRW senior West Africa researcher Corinne Dufka slammed Malian authorities for turning a blind eye to these ‘very disturbing crimes’. “The Malian government should take immediate steps to investigate these abuses and bring those responsible to justice, irrespective of rank,” an incensed Dufka said.

“Although the Malian forces arrested and executed the men and dumped their bodies in wells in public view in broad daylight, military officials and gendarmes denied knowledge of the killings,” the report said.

There are also reports of shops belonging to Arabs being looted and burned, and their properties destroyed in the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. Many black Malians suspected Malian Arabs of aiding and supporting the Islamists’ cause.

Tensions remain high in the West African country, as French President Francois Hollande and some members of his cabinet, accompanied with UNESCO boss, land today to the newly-liberated historical city in Timbuktu to ‘see for themselves’ the side-effects of Islamist occupation. Islamists have destroyed monuments and shrines, and burned ancient manuscripts of the historic library.

They also imposed Sharia Law in the north and cut people’s arms, lashed unmarried lovers in public, jailed those who refused to pray at mosques, and prohibited ‘Kaffir’ music. They also forced underage girls to marry the Jihadists.

After the liberation of Gao, Diabaly and Timbuktu, the attention has now turned to the strategic town of Kidal, the key to the Mali conflict, and a place said to be the bastion of Islamic fundamentalism. Although Kidal airport is now under the control of the French, jet fighters continue their operations in the hope of flushing out militants believed to be holed in various difficult, inaccessible parts of this big; hilly and mountainous city.

The MNLA, the party of Tuaregs which started the conflict before being dislodged and overpowered by Islamists, has reportedly negotiated with the French military not to allow Malian troops enter Kidal, supposedly fearing revenge and sabotage from the armed forces for humiliating them and killing many of their soldiers in the beginning of the conflict.

The MNLA wants the province of Kidal to break away from Mali and become an independent state for the Tuareg people, a suggestion outrightly rejected by the central government of Bamako.

*Photo by A Malian soldier seen here allegedly torturing an Islamist supporter.

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