New York, USA, February 01, 2023/African Media Agency(AMA)/ Independent UN experts on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into gross human rights violations and "possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2021 in Mali by government forces and the Russian paramilitary company, Wagner”.
"We are particularly concerned by credible reports that, over several days at the end of March 2022, the Malian armed forces, accompanied by soldiers suspected of belonging to the Wagner group, executed several hundred people, who had been gathered in Moura, a village in the center of Mali”, argued the UN experts, noting that they had directly expressed their concerns to the Malian authorities.
Also since 2021, these independent experts mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council, have received "persistent and alarming accounts of horrific executions, mass graves, acts of torture, rape and sexual violence" .
This West African country is said to have partnered with fighters from the Russian Wagner group in 2021 to help it fight armed jihadist groups, which have been waging an insurgency for ten years and which has spread to neighboring countries.
According to the experts, the reports also mention "looting, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances perpetrated by the Malian armed forces and their allies in the Mopti region and elsewhere, in the context of the ongoing hostilities".
Most of the victims were from the Fulani minority
In addition to the members of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries and the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, this text is notably signed by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the fight against terrorism; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on torture; and Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women.
They estimate that most of the victims belonged to the Fulani minority.
"We are disturbed by the apparent increase in the allocation of traditional military functions to the Wagner group in various military operations, including operations defined as counter-terrorism, notably in Nia Ouro, Gouni and Fakala", detailed the experts.
Wagner's victims face many challenges in accessing justice and reparations for human rights violations, including sexual violence, and crimes committed against them, particularly due to secrecy and the opacity surrounding the activities of this group in Mali, they added.
More broadly, the experts invite Bamako to show the greatest vigilance to “prohibit the direct participation in hostilities of all individuals operating on its territory”.
"The use of mercenaries, mercenary-like actors and private military and security companies only exacerbates the cycle of violence and impunity that prevails in the country," the experts further insisted, criticizing " lack of transparency and ambiguity about the legal status of the Wagner group”.
Added to this are reprisals against those who dare to speak out, creating "a general climate of terror for the victims and total impunity for Wagner's abuses" in this central Sahel country.
Distributed by African Media Agency for UN Info