UN experts* today called for an immediate independent investigation into gross human rights abuses and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Mali by Government forces and the private military contractor known as the “Wagner Group” since 2021.
Since 2021, the experts have received persistent and alarming accounts of horrific executions, mass graves, acts of torture, rape and sexual violence, pillaging, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances perpetrated by Malian armed forces and their allies in the Mopti area and other places, in the context of ongoing hostilities.
“We are particularly worried by credible reports that over the course of several days in late March 2022, Malian armed forces accompanied by military personnel believed to belong to the Wagner Group, executed several hundred people, who had been rounded up in Moura, a village in central Mali,” the UN experts said.
Most of the victims belonged to the Peuhl minority, they said.
“We are disturbed by the apparent increased outsourcing of traditional military functions to the so-called Wagner Group in various military operations, also encompassing operations defined as counter-terrorism, including in Nia Ouro, Gouni, and Fakala”, the experts added.
“Mali must exert the utmost vigilance in prohibiting the direct participation in hostilities of all private individuals operating on its territory. The use of mercenaries, mercenary-like actors and private security and military companies only exacerbates the cycle of violence and impunity prevailing in the country,” the experts said.
Victims of the so-called Wagner Group face many challenges in accessing justice and remedy for the human rights abuses, including sexual violence, and related crimes committed against them, particularly in light of the secrecy and opacity surrounding Wagner’s activities in Mali.
“The lack of transparency and ambiguity over the legal status of the Wagner Group, combined with reprisals against those daring to speak out, create an overall climate of terror and complete impunity for victims of the Wagner Group’s abuses”.
The experts have conveyed their concerns about the allegations to the Government of Mali directly.