Amnesty International has welcomed a UN report accusing the Malian army and “foreign” fighters of having executed over 500 people in 2022 during anti-jihadi operations in the Moura region.
The figures by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) amount to the worst atrocity the Sahel country has experienced since a jihadist insurgency flared in 2012.
It is also the most damning document yet against Mali’s armed forces and their foreign allies.
Human Rights Researcher on the Sahel, Amnesty, Ousmane Diallo described the seriousness of the report.
“We draw the attention of the prosecutor and the International Criminal Court to the Moura incident as documented by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights because the Moura incident potentially involves war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“And right now, we are in the eleventh year of conflict in Mali and the Moura incident is the most violent case against civilians since the beginning of this conflict.”
The OHCHR said it had “reasonable grounds to believe at least 500 people were killed in violation of norms, standards, rules and/or principles of international law.”
The victims were “executed by the FAMa (Malian Armed Forces) and foreign military personnel” who had complete control over the area, it said.
The OHCHR said it had reason to believe citizens faced execution, rape and other violence in March 2022 with the involvement of foreign forces.
Around 20 women and seven children were among those killed, while evidence suggests 58 women and girls were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
Acts of torture were also carried out on people who had been detained, it added.
Diallo said one of the key concerns was evidence of Russian military involvement via the Wagner mercenary group.
“That may be the highlight of the report. That is to say, it talks about white men speaking a language that is neither French nor English and foreign military personnel,” he explained.
“But we all know that these people are members of the Wagner private military company. And what happened in Moura is symbolic of the joint military operations that took place in central Mali in 2022. ”
Moura, in the Mopti region of central Mali, has been known as a stronghold of the Katiba Macina, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
On March 27 2022, the Malian army took control of the area and rounded up around 3,000 people.
On April 1, 2022, the junta described the events in Moura as a successful anti-jihadist operation that had put 203 “terrorists” out of action.
But five days later, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said 300 civilian men, some of them suspected jihadists, were summarily killed. White foreigners, identified by several sources as Russian, took part, it said.
The report is based on a seven-month investigation between March and October 2022 and on 157 individual interviews and 11 group interviews.
The junta persistently denied access to Moura for the investigators, apart from one initial flyover.
AMN | Reporters | AFP.