EU must ensure civilians are protected in Mali

EU must ensure civilians are protected in Mali
(Brussels, 17 January 2013) Following today’s meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, Amnesty International has expressed concern that the EU has yet to ensure that troops from the African military intervention force will not violate human rights. The organisation has also sought an EU pledge that its planned training mission gives the Malian army comprehensive human rights training, to protect local civilians.
“We’re alarmed that the EU hasn’t secured guarantees that the African military intervention force won’t abuse human rights. It’s also vital that the Malian army gets human rights training without delay”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “And we count on the EU to press for rapid deployment of human rights monitors to deter and document any human rights violations.”
Today’s extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meeting to determine the EU’s reaction to events in Mali has decided that a training mission should be expedited, and that the EU should give financial and logistical support to the African military intervention force. With French support, the Malian army launched a counter-offensive against armed Islamist groups on 11 January to prevent the capture of cities in southern Mali. 
The African intervention force is expected to include soldiers from countries whose forces have committed human rights violations. In Mali, too, local soldiers have been responsible for extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearance, and the torture of real or perceived civilian supporters of armed opposition groups in the areas they control. Amnesty International has insisted that human rights training is provided to the Malian Army to help prevent violations by its soldiers.
The Foreign Affairs Council concluded that all parties must do their utmost to protect civilians. Amnesty International has specifically urged the EU to press the French and Malian governments, and the governments of other African forces involved in this intervention, to do all necessary to avoid any civilian casualties as a result of bombing. They must give maximum warning to civilians before carrying out attacks and avoid indiscriminate shelling and bombing. Unintended civilian casualties might also result from inaccurate bombing. 
Amnesty International has also called on Islamist armed groups to respect international humanitarian law, which would include releasing hostages, ending hostage-taking, not placing military targets among civilians or using civilians as ‘human shields’. Since Islamist groups gained control of northern Mali in April last year, they have committed widespread and grave human rights abuses, introducing amputations, flogging, and stoning to death those who oppose their interpretation of Islam. 
For more information please contact:
Peter Clarke  
Media & Communications Officer
European Institutions Office
Amnesty International
Tel: +32 (0) 2 548 2773