The Hague, July 19, 2012 (FH) – International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has launched a preliminary examination into crimes committed in Mali, to determine whether to prosecute. This comes in response to a request from the government of that country. Speaking after meeting yesterday with a Malian government delegation, Bensouda said she would make a decision soon on whether one or more persons should be charged for crimes committed.

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Malian Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly, leading the delegation, submitted a letter to the Prosecutor in which he wrote that “massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws have been committed”, including rapes, massacres of civilians, looting, abductions, destruction of state symbols, churches, mausoleums and mosques.He also said that Malian authorities are “unable to prosecute or try the perpetrators of the crimes”.In response, Bensouda said she has instructed her office to “immediately proceed with a preliminary examination of the situation in order to assess whether the Rome Statute criteria stipulated under Article 53.1 for opening an investigation are fulfilled”.

“On 24 April, as instances of killings, abductions, rapes and conscription of children were reported by several sources, I reminded all actors of ICC jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Mali or by Malian nationals”, she explained. “On 1 July, I stressed that the deliberate destruction of the shrines of Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu may constitute a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute”.

The army seized control in Mali in March, accusing the elected government of failing to curb rebel groups in the north. But rebels subsequently seized the whole of the north. The rebels include Tuaregs and islamic groups linked to al-Qaeda.SM/GF/JC