24 June 2022
From 18 to 19 June 2022, several villages in the Bankass circle in the Bandiagara region, in the centre of the country, were attacked, resulting in more than 132 civilian victims, according to the official figures released by the Malian authorities in a press release dated 20 June 2022. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Association malienne des droits de l’Homme (AMDH), and Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC) reveal initial testimonies on these crimes.
The organizations strongly condemn the serious human rights violations which, once again, make the Malian population the first victims of the armed conflict that has been raging in the country since 2012. The Malian authorities have attributed violations to fighters of the Macina Katiba of Amadou Kouffa, a member of the Groupe de Soutien à l’Islam et aux musulmans (GSIM), affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and have indicated that they have already identified several alleged perpetrators.
“Caught in the middle of the armed conflict between armed terrorist groups, non-state armed groups, and the Malian armed forces, the civilian population continues to suffer the worst abuses. The Bankass massacre is one more episode in this cycle of violence and impunity that is destroying the confidence and cohesion of the people of Mali,” Drissa Traoré added. We welcome MINUSMA’s announcement that an investigation into the precise circumstances of these attacks is underway. It is also essential that the Malian authorities carry out a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation to establish the facts, apportion responsibility, and bring justice to the victims and their families.”
Drissa Traoré, FIDH Secretary General
The organisations were able to collect several testimonies from the victims’ families. The attack is said to have started on the afternoon of Saturday, 18 June 2022 in the villages of Diallasagou, Diamweli, and Deguessagou. The accounts mention abductions and summary executions: men of the villages were rounded up, taken out of the villages, and executed. Their houses were burned down and their cattle and possessions stolen.
B. E. lives in Diallassagou.
“The incident started at around 4pm. The assailants came on more than 100 motorbikes (two people per motorbike); they surrounded the village of Diallassagou, and went house by house looking for the men. They arrested about 50 men, tied them up, and took them about 2 km away from the village to execute them. They then robbed and burnt shops, taking money and other goods. Afterwards, some of them headed for Diamweli and Deguessagou. In all, they killed 132 people, all men, including 67 in Diallassagou, 56 in Diamweli and nine in Deguessagou.”
According to other eyewitnesses, the assailants were looking for people alleged to have “collaborated” with the Malian defence and security forces.
I. D. also lives in Diallassagou.
“They entered M.’s house. His wife had begged them to spare his life because he was ill. They said no, saying they had come for revenge and saying: ’it was your men who called the gendarmerie’ [referring to the denunciations that followed the anti-terrorist operation ’Maliko’ of the FAMa on 24 May 2022 in Diallassagou and Diamweli in which the army announced that it had ’neutralised 12 terrorists’]. The attackers remained in the village until dawn. The soldiers arrived after sunrise.”
These serious human rights violations, perpetrated mainly against men, were allegedly committed by the so-called extremist armed groups in retaliation for military operations by the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa). This method of collective punishment is taking place in an area where local agreements were signed in February 2021 between the population and the so-called extremist armed groups: a commitment to “non-aggression” by the armed groups in exchange for a commitment by the inhabitants not to report the latter to the authorities. FIDH, AMDH, and LWBC recall that such violations, committed by parties to the conflict, constitute war crimes. Attacks on civilian populations are formally prohibited by international humanitarian law.
Failure of a security-centred model
FIDH, AMDH, and LWBC express grave concern at the resurgence of attacks on civilian populations in the context of the armed conflict.
Reaffirming that “the security and protection of people and their property remain its absolute priority,” the transitional government sent a ministerial delegation to the area on 21 June 2022, with the support of MINUSMA. The events in Bankass occurred in a context of escalating violence, marked on the one hand by an upsurge in attacks by terrorist groups, and on the other hand by an acceleration of military operations to combat terrorism.
Despite the repeated commitments of the Malian state, justice remains elusive in the face of the serious violations suffered by the civilian population. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into the crimes committed in Mali and could intervene if the national authorities do not fulfil their obligations to investigate and prosecute.
“Respect for international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and the right of victims to justice, truth and reparation cannot be made subordinate to a security imperative; transitional authorities must prioritise breaking the cycle of violence and guaranteeing the return to lasting peace. This can only be achieved if the investigations lead to the prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators, as well as reparation for the victims — which is still far too rare.”
Barbara Trachsel, Mali director for LWBC
In its June 2022 report, the Citizen’s Coalition for the Sahel reported that an average of eight civilians were killed each day in the Sahel between April 2021 and March 2022. These attacks are attributed to so-called extremist armed groups, but also to self-defence groups, or to security and defence forces and their international partners. For Mali, over this period the number of civilians killed in attacks attributed to so-called extremist armed groups is up by +133%.
“Resolving the decade-long conflict and crisis in Mali requires a comprehensive policy response placing the civilians’ demands and safety at the heart of national and international action strategies. Beyond the numerous and extensive military operations, the Malian authorities, along with their international partners, must take concrete measures to respond to the urgent need to protect civilians, fight impunity, improve governance, and provide humanitarian support.”
Mabassa Fall, FIDH representative to the African Union
FIDH, ASFC, and AMDH reiterate their call for the transitional authorities to protect the civilian population, given the escalation of violence that has been perpetrated against them — making them the primary victims of the conflict for over 10 years.
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