Bamako, 9 April 2012
Northern Mali has been occupied for many years by drug traffickers, islamist fundamentalists and kidnappers of Westerners. They are Malians, Algerians, Mauritanians, Nigerians, Sudanese, Chadians.
It must be said that Northern Mali is a desert of approximately 600 000 km2 and that terrorists take advantage of the Malian army's limited resources, of the topography (sand desert, rocky mountains), of the hostile climate and of the low population density.
After the defeat of the Libyan army following NATO's bombing, several Malian Tuaregs who had been fighting for Khadafy came back to Mali. Malian authorities greeted them and tried to convince them not to destabilize Mali. Some of the newcomers allowed themselves to be disarmed but others refused to cooperate. They created the Mouvement National de Libération de l'Azaouad (MNLA) and attacked Malian army's bases at the borders with Niger and Algeria. First attack: 17 January 2012.
At the same time, terrorist groups sprang into action and coordinated their activities with the MNLA. In Aguelhoc, the assailants were cruel: approximately one hundred disarmed Malian soldiers were tied up and had their throats slit. In Tessalit too, assailants killed several Malian soldiers. Shocked by these killings, Malian soldiers blamed the President. They accused him of complacency toward the rebels. On 22 March 2012, soldiers and junior officers attacked the presidential palace. This coup d'Etat destabilized the army since senior officers were pushed aside by the putschists. The MNLA and terrorists took advantage of this confusion and took control of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.
At present, there is no State representative in these three regions, which are totally under the controls of the rebels and terrorists.
2. The situation of human rights in occupied regions
News from the field show that terrorist groups (AQMI, Ansare Dine, Mouvement pour l'unité du Jihad en Afrique de l'ouest, drug traffickers) have overwhelmed the MNLA rebels. As of early April 2012 the Islamists, and not the rebels, are controlling the towns of Kidal and Timbuktu. Their presence is heavily felt in Gao.
In the three regions, infringements of human rights are significant and serious.
2.1 Violations of human rights by Islamist fundamentalists
The Islamists demand total application of the Koranic law (Sharia). As a result:
- they deny women the right to work;
- they force women to wear the full veil;
- they apply severe penalties: cutting off the hand of thieves, summary executions of delinquents, stoning women for various reasons;
- they forbid other religions than Islam;
- they forbid meetings for other reasons than those for religious practices.
At the moment, the inhabitants of Kidal and Timbuktu are submitted to this rigorous regime against their will.
2.2 Violations of Human rights committed by the rebels and other groups:
• Pillaging and destruction of properties: all banks have been sacked in the town of Gao, sometimes with explosives to open safes; all public services have been sacked:
• Hospitals have been completely plundered: healthcare is not available anymore in Gao; sick people and pregnant women are left to themselves; AIDS patients on antiretroviral drugs are without assistance because the treatment centre has been destroyed;
• Thefts and extortion of properties : rebels steal all the food supplies they find (private shops, government security stocks, international organizations or NGOs);
• Violence against women and young girls, who are victims of public sexual aggression;
• Inhabitants are suddenly thrown into complete destitution: without food, water, electricity, phone communications.
This situation is an absolute paradox: independents that plunder the resources of the territory to which they lay claim! Northern populations are undergoing a dire humanitarian crisis. Their basic fundamental rights are violated: freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, freedom of association, right to decent life conditions, right to life and personal security, right to property, right to dignity and freedom from cruelty.
As for the declaration of independence, it seriously infringes the right of peoples to self-determination. In fact, the Tuareg populations represent less than 1% of the Malian population and less than 12% of the population of the three regions. As for the causes of the rebellion, speeches from western political leaders seem to legitimize the MNLA's actions and to minimize Mali's efforts in favor of northern regions.
These speeches contribute to strengthening the notion that Tuaregs suffer from ostracism in Mali, while it is not the case. Any impartial observer can easily witness the state of poverty everywhere in Mali : destitution is common to every region in the country, it is not limited to the north ; it is more harshly felt there because of the climate and of the way of life of its inhabitants.
The ISHR should undertake communication initiatives to highlight and denounce the serious infringements of human rights perpetrated by armed assailants in Northern Mali.
President of the ISHR Mali