Arusha, March 9, 2015 (FH) – Human rights organizations have filed a war crimes complaint before a Bamako investigating judge on behalf of 33 victims in the north of the country, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) has announced.

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The complaint identifies fifteen people suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity when armed groups occupied Timbuktu and its surrounding region in 2012 and 2013, says a communiqué published Friday. 

This comes four months after FIDH and member organizations filed a complaint on behalf of 80 women and girls for rape and sexual violence committed during the armed groups’ occupation of the north.

FIDH and the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH) said they wanted to send “a strong message to Mali’s political and judicial authorities on behalf of the victims of the most serious crimes committed in the North of the country. The courts must take these complaints up quickly and carry out investigations as soon as possible, so as to establish responsibilities and render justice to the victims.”

Both complaints have been submitted to the most senior examining magistrate of the Bamako Commune III Court of First Instance.

FIDH said that although this court has opened a number of judicial investigations into suspected perpetrators of serious crimes during the armed conflict in the north, “our organizations continue to deplore the fact that the charges retained up to now relate almost exclusively to acts of terrorism or criminal conspiracy, thus failing to include the human rights violations that were committed.”

 “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 (ICC), it is essential for the Malian justice department to adopt these charges,” FIDH and AMDH continued. “The ICC Prosecutor has been investigating this situation since January 2013 and is keeping a close eye on national procedures.”

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in January 2013 that she was opening an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Mali since January 2012. The investigation focuses on crimes committed in the three northern regions of Mali. It followed a request from the Malian government in July 2012, which referred the situation in the country to the ICC, saying national authorities would be unable to investigate and prosecute crimes, including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances, and the use of child soldiers. Investigations are ongoing, but no cases have yet been brought against specific individuals.