Bamako, Mali (PANA) - Civilians are bearing the brunt of horrific abuses that include amputations, sexual violence and extra-judicial executions in Mali, according to Amnesty International.
The global rights group said in a statement posted on its official website Friday that its 15-day research mission to Mali earlier this month revealed such abuses in several locations across the country.
The report of the mission, entitled 'Mali: Civilians bear the brunt of the conflict', also documents the recruitment of child soldiers – including in camps located on state land.
"Fighting in Mali has died down and parties to the armed conflict watch each other without direct confrontation – but hostility still simmers below the surface and civilians on both sides continue to bear the brunt of horrific abuses," said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International's researcher on West Africa, who just returned from Mali.
"The fighting may resume at any time and it is essential that the parties ensure the protection of civilians in strict compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law," Mootoo said.
Amnesty International said that in northern Mali, Islamist groups bent on imposing their interpretation of Sharia law are increasingly imposing violent punishments such as amputations, following sham trials of those accused of committing crimes.
The latest amputation was carried out on 16 September, the organisation said, adding that since August, it had documented a total of seven people who faced such punishment after hasty sham trials on charges of theft or robbery.
The group also said women continue to be the victims of sexual violence amid the conflict. In one case, a 14-year-old girl was raped in Timbuktu by a member of the “police” established by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Concerning the use of child soldiers, Amnesty International said it also documented the ongoing use of child soldiers by armed Islamist groups in northern Mali as well as self-defence militias in government-controlled areas.
On a visit to a training camp for a self-defence militia, the organisation said it met children who had been recruited and trained ahead of a possible offensive to regain control of northern Mali, which has come under the control of armed Islamist groups.
Amnesty International said extra-judicial executions have also taken place since the conflict began.
It said that on the night of 8-9 September 2012, the Malian military detained 16 members of the Dawa, a movement of Muslim preachers at a checkpoint in Diabali (around 400 km northeast of the capital Bamako). A few hours later, all 16 were extra-judicially executed.
“The Malian authorities must shed light on these facts and prosecute all those responsible for these horrendous acts,” said Mootoo.
-0- PANA SEG 21Sept2012