The UN official said he was “dismayed” by the massacres committed in central Mali.
The UN human rights chief said Thursday he was “dismayed” by the alleged summary executions of 25 people by the Malian army and “foreign soldiers” last week in a region gripped by violence armed groups.
Volker Turk also said he was alarmed by the deaths of around thirty other people during attacks over the weekend in central Mali, a particularly hotbed of violence.
“I am appalled by credible allegations that Malian armed forces accompanied by foreign military personnel summarily executed at least 25 people in the village of Welingara, in the central Nara region, on January 26,” Turk said in a statement.
“I am also alarmed by reports that around 30 civilians were killed in attacks by as-yet-unidentified gunmen on two other villages – Ogota and Oimbe – in the Bandiagara region over the past weekend,” he added.
Gathering and verifying information in Mali is made difficult by the country’s vast geography, deteriorating communications infrastructure, and security concerns.
Rebel violence that began in northern Mali in 2012 spread to the center of the country in 2015, when Katiba Macina – an al-Qaeda-affiliated group – was created, led by Pure Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa.
West Africa recorded more than 1,800 attacks in the first six months of 2023, killing nearly 4,600 people and creating dire humanitarian consequences. According to a Senior ECOWAS regional officialit was just “a snippet of the horrific impact of insecurity.”
Mali is currently led by a military government that took power in 2020 and turned away from former colonial power France, before pushing the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, to leave late 2023.
The government has instead chosen to turn towards Russia, both politically and militarily. Last January, he announced his withdrawal of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), alongside Burkina Faso and Niger, also led by their armies. The regional bloc played a central role in condemning and imposing sanctions against the trio after the power grabs.
France once had a strong presence in the Sahel, but announced the withdrawal of its troops from the three countries after the coups.
Many observers have claimed that Mali had used the services of Russian mercenaries, despite frequent Malian denials.
The UN and local sources have regularly accused the Malian army and its allies of abuses against civilians, which Mali has also categorically denied.
U.N. rights investigators and groups like Human Rights Watch have said Malian troops and foreign forces — presumably Wagner — were behind it. the slaughter of at least 500 people in the town of Moura, central Mali, in March 2022.
“It is essential that all allegations of arbitrary deprivation of life, including summary executions, are fully and impartially investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice in trials that meet international standards,” the UN human rights chief said Thursday.
To date, none of the investigations launched in Mali into abuses committed by the military have been successful.