Armed Intervention in Mali Risks Worsening the Crisis

Press Release
December 21, 2012

Armed Intervention in Mali Risks Worsening the Crisis

Says UN Must Prepare for Expanding Refugee Crisis; Urges Human Rights Monitors and Safeguards for Civilians

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org @strimel

(New York) – The United Nations Security Council’s approval of armed intervention in Mali risks worsening the human rights and humanitarian crisis in the north, Amnesty International said today.

In order to prevent a new surge in abuses, Amnesty International is calling on the United Nations to ensure that any military force is bound by effective safeguards for civilian protection. Human rights monitors must be sent to observe the conflict closely, with particular attention given to government-supported militias.

Amnesty International fears that during the intervention, indiscriminate attacks, arbitrary detentions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and the use of child soldiers by both sides, could become even more widespread. Civilians in the north are already suffering under the rule of the armed Islamist groups that have controlled the region since April 2012.

“An international armed intervention is likely to increase the scale of human rights violations we are already seeing in this conflict,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s researcher on West Africa

The Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to approve an African-led force with “use all necessary measures” at its disposal to take back the country’s north from “terrorist, extremist and armed groups.”

“The United Nations has to ensure that any intervention force fully complies with international humanitarian and human rights law, and prioritizes the protection of civilians caught in the conflict,” said Saguès.

Since April 2012 Islamist groups in Mali’s north have imposed a reign of terror, introducing punishments such as amputations, flogging, and stoning to death for those who oppose their interpretation of Islam.

At the beginning of the conflict, the Malian security forces responded to the uprising by bombing Tuareg civilians, and arresting, torturing and killing Tuareg people.

Military intervention risks triggering further ethnic conflict in a country already driven by attacks on Tuareg and other lighter-skinned people.

The Malian army is currently dominated by the military junta, which overthrew the democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré last March.

Malian soldiers have been responsible for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture.

Amnesty International is also urging the United Nations to prepare for a deepening refugee crisis. The conflict has already displaced up to 400,000 people, resulting in a flood of refugees to neighboring countries poorly prepared to protect them, including countries suffering humanitarian crises due to region-wide food shortages.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.