Mali to seek ICC probe into rebel crimes in north

Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:59pm GMT

By David Lewis

DAKAR (Reuters) - Mali plans to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate killings, rapes, torture, and attacks on cultural sites in its rebel-controlled north, the country's justice minister said on Thursday.

Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly did not say when the request would be lodged, but RFI, the French radio station that interviewed him, said a Malian government delegation would go to The Hague-based court to file the request in the coming days.

"Given that the north of Mali is not under the control of the legitimate authorities, we think it is right to submit the case to the court in order to avoid impunity," Coulibaly said in the interview.

A mixture of local and foreign Islamists, including some fighters linked to al Qaeda, have hijacked a rebellion initially launched in January by secular Tuareg separatist rebels, creating a security threat that regional and Western governments have compared to Afghanistan.

After chasing the secular MNLA rebels from their positions, Islamist fighters have consolidated their grip and carried out a wave of attacks on ancient Sufi shrines, some of which were classified world heritage sites by UNESCO.

A spokeswoman for the ICC prosecutor's office was unable to confirm whether it had received a communication from the government of Mali.

In April, the ICC said it was considering investigating rapes and killings that had been committed since fighting erupted in Mali's desert north in January.

Coulibaly said Mali would call for an investigation into crimes committed by the MNLA separatists, Islamist groups Ansar Dine and MUJWA and other fighters dating back to January.   Continued...

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sits in the ICC courtroom during the sentencing of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (not pictured) in the Hague July (NETHERLANDS - Tags: CONFLICT CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)
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