Interview by Clarissa Maracci for F&D
1) How is Amnesty International monitoring the human rights situation in Mali?
Amnesty International is monitoring the human rights situation in the field through various means: media reports , research team with contacts in the country.
2) Let’s talk about human rights abuses in northern territories. According to international reports, HR violation seems to be related to Ansar Dine. What about the Tuareg? How are they involved in the violation of HR?
According to our research, human rights abuses are committed by islamists armed group, such as Ansar Dine: amputation, extrajudicial executions , stoning to death. Armed members of the MNLA have been responsible for rape and other sexual violence, including against minors. The Malian army has also been responsible for human rights violations, such as extra-judicial executions, torture, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.
3) What are the connections between the Tuareg movement (MNLA) – pastoral atheist tribe – and islamists militias (Ansar Dine, AQIM, MUJAO) ?
Last year, all these different movements have made an “alliance of convenience” , they fought together for a common objective: taking the control of the northern territories. However, they are separated groups since the Ansar Dine and other islamist militia want to create an Islamic State in the whole of Mali, while the MNLA are fighting for the independence of Northern Mali. Now the MNLA combatants have split from the Islamist groups and have declared their willingness to help the French and Malian armies against them
4) Recruiting and training of hundreds children by islamists military troops. Why are these children joining the rebels? Are they forced to join the islamists militia?
According to our information, we believe that some child-soldiers have been wounded and possibly killed in recent fighting. It is also hard to tell the exact number of children that actually have been recruited – but it is in the hundreds. What we know, is that child-soldiers have been also trained by pro-government militias. Islamist armed groups and these pro-government militias are recruiting children in their troops, by forcing them or not – this is not known. However, as you might know, it is against international humanitarian law to enlist in the army a child that is under 15 years old.
5) The islamists and the Tuareg movements have weapons of course, but, on the other side, we know that these militia are composed by very poor people from the desert and the countryside. Where are they getting the weapons?
According to media reports, a lot of the weapons have come from Lybia, brought by the Tuareg coming back from Gheddafi war.
6) How the EU mission is handling the military training of the Malian army. What is the “military training” in practice?
It’s not clear what it will involve. We wish that it will involve human rights training for soldiers, in order to prevent extra-judicial executions, torture, and severe abuses that have been reported already. We are also concerned about the fact that Malian army may attack civilians, because for sure they have already committed HR violations such as torture between civilians.
Another concern AI in terms of HR protection is the African military intervention: about 3000 soldiers are expected come from other African countries to support the Malian army and we are concerned that these may include soldiers with a record of committing human rights violations in the past. AI recommends that the EU training mission will provide HR training to Malian soldiers in order to prevent further HR violations. And we call on the EU, which is providing financial and logistical support to the African intervention force, to ensure that African troops do not commit human rights violations.
7) We know that some civilians have been killed in the Niger River, by mistake, during the French air force bombing. Is there the risk that this could happen again, according to AI?
Yes, there is a risk that this will happen again . There is always a risk for the civilians . That’s why the highest priority should be the protection of civilians. A Specific recommendation to the French army is to give an effective warning to civilians when they carry out any bomb attack. We are also concerned that there will be indiscriminate bombing, because the Malian army has already a record on that. They have not differentiated between civilians and soldiers in their some of their previous attacks. This would represent a violation of international humanitarian law.
We call both parties to refrain from this kind of attacks.
8) In relation to the child-soldiers that took part to the rebellion, is there any protection for then or are they considered as an enemy to defeat by the Malian army and the EU military forces?
Before answering I would like to clarify one point: the EU has not intervened. This is only France. EU is only involved with training, they are not sending any soldier to the combat. Islamist have the responsibility not to recruit child soldiers. All parties have responsibility not to recruit child soldier and not to target civilians.
9) From the Secretary General report on the Malian situation, dated 29 november 2012, we know that 412.000 ( four hundred thousand) people are abandoning the morthern territories. Is this number close to reality right now?
As far as we know, displaced people and refugees amount to 350.000. Of them, 200.000 are displaced in the Malian territory. The rest of the people has escaped to Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso , Mauritania and Togo .
10) The EU Training mission, to which Italy took part, will provide for “training , advisory support and basic equipment” to the Malian army. Can this include weapons supply to the official army?
Our understanding is that EU is not supplying any weapons.
11) What is the position of Amnesty International in relation to the EU mission in Mali ? And in relation to the French military intervention?
Our position is that EU should provide HR training to the Malian army. We do not take sides , our concern is the protection of civilians. As it relates to the French intervention, the same, they should give the highest importance to the protection of civilians.
Thank you very much to Andrew Noakes and
to Amnesty International European Institutions Office,