This is one of the most serious challenges to the Malian security forces in their operations against the jihadists. The Minusma, in accordance with the mandate conferred by the UN Security Council, published Wednesday its quarterly note on human rights violations between April and June in the country. It has identified “467 cases of violations and abuses of human rights and international law” which resulted in 317 civilians killed, 73 people kidnapped or missing and 77 injured, it says.
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Figures which show a drop of around 42% in this type of incident compared to the previous quarter, during which 812 cases of human rights violations were recorded, and 543 civilian victims recorded. “The main perpetrators of violence against civilians have been groups such as the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the Islamic State in Grand Sahara (EIGS)”, specifies the Minusma.
In its latest report, the Minusma also looked at length at the poorly documented events that occurred on April 19 in Hombori, in central Mali, and their extensions, which affect the degraded relations between Bamako and the former French ally. .
That day, Malian soldiers, accompanied by “foreign military personnel, conducted a military combing operation in the locality during which at least 50 civilians (including a woman and a child) were killed and more than 500 other arrested, “writes the Minusma. The operation followed the explosion of an improvised explosive device as a military convoy passed. The Minusma does not provide any details on the foreign fighters in question. Different sources at the time claimed that a “Russian” deployed in operation with Malian soldiers had been killed in the explosion.
On April 22, the Malian army had publicly indicated that it had carried out a “major sweep” in the Hombori area after being attacked on the 19th. It claimed to have killed 18 “attackers” and arrested 611 people. The vast majority of them have been released. But among the few dozen men detained, two died under torture, according to Minusma. On April 24, a soldier “summarily killed” 20 other prisoners at the Malian army camp in Hombori, she adds.
Mass grave of Gossi
The events of Hombori are prolonged in a dark case of corpses illustrating the immense distrust now existing between the authorities of Mali and those of France. The document of the Minusma delivers on this point a version favorable to Paris. In its progressive disengagement, France left and returned to the Malian authorities, on April 19, the Gossi base, located several tens of kilometers northeast of Hombori.
April 21 circulated a video taken using a drone and showing, according to the French army, Russian mercenaries burying bodies near the Gossi base. The purpose would have been to accuse the French of leaving a mass grave behind them. The Malian authorities in return accused the French of having fabricated these mounted images “from scratch in order to accuse (the Malian soldiers) of being the perpetrators of the killings of civilians”.
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The Minusma says it has opened its investigation. According to her, the remains buried in Gossi were transported there on April 20, the day after the handover of the camp to the Malians, and “came from Hombori”. No reaction was obtained from the Malian authorities.
This report is in addition to others published by the UN or by independent experts commissioned by the UN reporting abuses by the Malian army during operations carried out with its “foreign” auxiliaries. The locality of Moura, also in the center, was the scene at the end of March of what Human Rights Watch describes as the massacre of 300 civilians by Malian soldiers associated with foreign fighters, possibly Russian. The Malian army denies and claims the elimination of more than 200 jihadists.
In total, the operations of the Malian forces caused the death of 96 civilians in the 2nd quarter, out of a total of 317, including 200 attributable to jihadist groups, says Minusma. The share of responsibility of the Malian Armed Forces (Fama) is down “significantly” compared to the previous quarter, she adds. The junta ensures to systematically open investigations if necessary. But the results of these surveys are usually not made public. When the Minusma mandate was renewed in June, Mali had expressed “firm opposition” to the freedom of movement of blue helmets for investigations into the rights humans.