Alarming Reports of Extreme Sexual Violence against Malian Women, Girls

Human Wrongs Watch

A senior UN official has strongly condemned the reported acts of sexual violence committed against Malian women and girls amid renewed fighting. Allegations include “abductions, public rapes and subjecting women and girls to acts of sexual violence in front of family members.”

 Malian refugee women wait with their children to receive relief items from UNHCR in Gaoudel, Ayorou district, northern Niger. Photo: UNHCR/H.Caux
“As unrest continues in northern Mali, an alarming number of acts of sexual violence have been reported,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström on 10 April.
Wallström stressed that any party to the conflict credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence can be publicly named and shamed by the Secretary-General as a basis for Security Council action.


200,000 People, Uprooted Since January

“Acts of conflict-related sexual violence can constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity for which combatants and their commanders will be held to account,” she said.

Last month, rebel Malian soldiers took control of the country and announced the dissolution of the Government led by President Amadou Toumani Toure. In addition, renewed fighting in northern Mali, between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, has uprooted more than 200,000 people since January, with the majority seeking safety in neighbouring countries and some 93,000 believed to be internally displaced, the UN reports.

Wallström emphasized that any peaceful solution to the conflict must include women and must address the crime of rape, as sexual violence contributes to the destabilization of the region and the denial of women’s rights.

Meanwhile, the Security Council has urged the military rebels who seized control of the government to immediately implement the agreement they signed last week with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which provides a series of steps to restore constitutional order in the country.

In a statement issued to the press last night [9 April], Council members reaffirmed “the need to uphold and respect the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali and reject categorically any declarations to the contrary,” and demanded “an immediate cessation of hostilities in the north of Mali by rebel groups.”

Condemnation, But…

The Council also condemned all violence against humanitarian workers after it was reported that seven Algerian diplomats were abducted in the town of Gao in northern Mali last week. The Council called for the immediate release of all abductees and renewed its call to all parties in Mali to seek a peaceful solution through appropriate political dialogue.

The members of the Council reiterated their serious concern over the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, and expressed deep concern at the increased terrorist threat in the northern part of the country due to the presence among the rebels of members of the terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and extremist elements.

Some Facts About Mali

Mali is a landlocked country in Western Africa, bordering Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d’Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west.

Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with a population of just 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako.

Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country’s southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Sénégal rivers.

The country’s economic structure centers around agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali’s natural resources are gold, uranium, livestock, and salt. About half the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

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2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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