The UN secretary-general has called on Mali and its “bilateral partners” to respect their international obligations as concerns grow over human rights violations by the West African country’s military in its fight with jihadists.
António Guterres, acknowledging “widespread attacks by extremists”, told the UN Security Council that Mali’s counter-terrorism efforts also had “disastrous consequences for the civilian population” in a confidential report obtained by AFP on Thursday.
The UN chief said, “I emphasize the duty of the state to do everything in its power to promote accountability and ensure that its military operations, including those conducted with its bilateral partners are carried out in accordance with their international obligations.”
The term “bilateral partner” is believed to be an implied reference by the Russian Wagner Group to mercenaries allegedly stationed in a country close to the Kremlin.
“Some operations by national security forces to counter the violent activities of these extremist groups – apparently with foreign security personnel – have been the subject of allegations of serious human rights violations,” Guterres said.
The secretary-general’s report specifically cites the late January executions of “at least 20 people” in the country’s Bandiagara region, and attributes the civilian deaths to the February airstrikes carried out by the military.
His report is the first to be submitted to the Security Council since mid-February’s announcement that French and European military missions previously aiding Mali’s years-long battle with a bloody jihadist insurgency had been withdrawn.
The Malian government has refused to use Wagner mercenaries, only acknowledging the presence of Russian “trainers” under a bilateral cooperation agreement concluded with Moscow, in which two combat helicopters were delivered on Thursday.