Arusha, November 13, 2014 (FH) – The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and member organizations have filed a crimes against humanity and war crimes complaint in Mali on behalf of 80 women and girls for rape and sexual violence committed when armed groups occupied the north of the country in 2012 and 2013.

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This triggered criminal proceedings Wednesday “for submission to the most senior examining magistrate of the Bamako Commune III Court of First Instance”, according to an FIDH communiqué.

“Since Malian national legislation has incorporated the classifications of crimes against humanity and war crimes set out in the Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is essential for the Malian justice department to adopt these charges,” the organizations said.

All the armed groups committed sexual crimes on a large scale, according to the statement, and so inquiries to ensure justice for the victims should now be a priority for the Malian judiciary.

They also said that although many judicial investigations have been opened before the Bamako Court for suspected grave violations of human rights in northern Mali, they “deplore that the charges up to the present have nearly all been related to terrorism or criminal association, thus excluding violations of human rights. Likewise, charges for rape and other sexual violence, which are crimes against humanity and war crimes, have, up to now, been totally omitted from the scope of the investigations”.

“Our organizations have evidence showing that during the offensive and the occupation of the conquered territories, members of all the armed groups, without exception, were guilty of mass sexual crimes, especially targeting women and girls of certain communities,” said the FIDH and its members.

Signatory members include the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) and the Association of Malian Female Jurists (AJM).

In January 2012, pro-independence and jihadist armed groups launched a major assault in the north of Mali and managed in less five months to take control of all the northern regions.