Arusha, August 28, 2014 (FH) – Some twenty NGOs are demanding that the peace process for Mali exclude any kind of amnesty for international crimes committed in the country (i.e. genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes).

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Their call comes as peace talks between the Malian government and armed groups are due to resume in Algiers on September 1.

The 22 organizations, brought together by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Malian Human Rights Association (AMDH), call on the negotiators to “rule out any amnesty for international crimes, including sexual violence and use of child soldiers, in line with the Rome Statute to which Mali is a party”.

The Rome Statute is the founding text of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has been investigating the situation in Mali since January 2013.

Signatories also call on the negotiators to “commit to respecting the judicial process for these crimes, including making suspects available to national and international judicial authorities.”  The 22 NGOs call on the government of Mali to “take appropriate measures to ensure that the authors of these crimes are prosecuted, tried and sentenced if found guilty”. That means, according to the NGO declaration, that the State must “guarantee victims’ rights to justice, truth and reparation”.

They also appeal to the international community, urging it to “support the creation of the international investigating commission on crimes committed, so as allow independent and impartial investigations into violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”.

The NGOs say they believe “impunity is one of the causes of the various rebellions in Mali which have produced numerous and serious human rights abuses”. Stressing that the fight against impunity is “one of the essential elements for real national reconciliation and key to deterring vengeance”, the organizations condemn the freeing of dozens of suspects, including former Islamic judge of Timbuktu Houka Houka Ag Alfousseïni.

Malian authorities freed Alfousseïni on August 15 as part of the peace process, although he is accused of having ordered amputations, stonings, whippings and arbitrary arrests during the ten months that northern Mali was controlled by armed islamist groups.

FIDH and AMDH called his freeing a “real attack on judicial independence” and a “flagrant violation of victims’ rights to justice and truth”.