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UN Rights Chief says 580 Malians killed this year as security worsens

GENEVA (26 June 2020) – 580 civilians have been killed so far this year in central Mali, as a deteriorating security situation and widespread impunity undermine efforts to protect civilians, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Friday.

Violent disputes between the Peulh and Dogon communities have increased in recent months, with community-based militias, initially formed to defend communities becoming increasingly violent and involved in attacks against other communities. From 1 January to 21 June 2020, the Human Rights and Protection Division of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) documented 83 incidents of violence across communal lines in Mopti region (central Mali).

Community-based militias from the Peulh community, who are primarily herders, were responsible for at least 71 of these violent incidents, leading to the deaths of 210 people, while those from the Dogon community, who are mainly farmers and hunters, carried out 12 attacks, leaving at least 82 people dead.

Individuals were also abducted, forced to join community-based militias or displaced, with the attackers clearly aiming to inflict major and lasting damage on the communities, burning houses, looting properties and granaries, and killing or stealing cattle.

These attacks across community lines have also been fuelled and instrumentalized by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims and other similar or affiliated armed groups, which have used the intercommunal violence to recruit members into their ranks.

These armed groups have increased their presence in the central regions as they continue to be challenged in the north of Mali by national and international armed forces. According to information documented by the Human Rights and Protection Division, since the start of the year, these armed groups have been responsible for 105 human rights abuses in the Mopti region, including 67 killings.

Members of the Malian Defence and Security Forces sent to the area to counter community-based violence and armed groups have themselves been involved in human rights violations, mostly targeting members of the Peulh community.

So far this year, the Human Rights and Protection Division has documented 230 extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions attributed to members of the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF) in the central regions of Mopti and Ségou. Forty-seven of these killings, which occurred in five incidents in March 2020, are attributed to Malian Defence and Security Forces presumably acting under the command of the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel). Instances of enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest, and the destruction of several properties have also been documented.

All these violations and abuses have been perpetrated in a context of overwhelming impunity. The lack of accountability continues to erode the population’s confidence in State institutions, with people relying on militias and armed groups to provide security.

“The vicious cycle of retaliatory attacks between Dogon and Peulh militias, coupled with the violations and abuses committed by Malian Defence and Security Forces and armed groups, has created a situation of chronic insecurity for the civilian population, who are not able to count on the protection of the Malian forces. This needs to stop,” said Bachelet.

“The Government and national forces should restore State authority across the country, and deliver peace, security and protection for the people. This protective environment can only be possible if impunity ends and all perpetrators, including some members of the defence and security forces, are held accountable for their actions. People need justice, redress and reparations,” she said.

“I call on the Malian authorities to establish prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into all alleged human rights violations and abuses and to ensure proper accountability processes are established. This is the only way to reverse this trend of continuing violence,” Bachelet added.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville – + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Jeremy Laurence – + 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.orgorLiz Throssell- + 41 22 917 9296 / ethrossell@ohchr.org or Marta Hurtado – + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org