Mali junta slams 'grave rights violations'

2012-04-04 19:02
Bamako - Mali's junta on Wednesday accused rebels controlling the northern city of Gao of grave human rights abuses, in particular the kidnap and rape of women and girls.

"The populations of northern Mali, specifically those in Gao, are suffering grave human rights violations" since the town was seized on Saturday by Tuareg rebels and Islamists, the junta said in a statement.

Spokesperson Amadou Konare pointed the finger at the Tuareg rebel Azawad National Liberation Movement, the Islamist Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

"Women and girls have been kidnapped and raped by the new occupants who are laying down their own law," the statement said, without giving further details.

A Gao resident, who asked not to be identified by name or employment, confirmed the junta's accusations.

"It is a reality here. At night they kidnap women, take them away and rape them," he said, adding there had been at least a dozen cases since Saturday.

Over the weekend the Tuareg and Islamists seized the three main northern centres of Kidal, Gao and the fabled city of Timbuktu, the former seeking regional independence and the latter sharia, Islamic law.

The resident of Gao said "every kind of robbery imaginable has happened here since those people arrived: people have been fleeced, pillaged, vandalised. There is no transport and those who try to leave the city are turned back."

A band of low-ranking officers ousted the government on March 22 for its alleged incompetence in stamping out the northern rebellion, but have since lost territory larger than France to the various rebel groups.

In its statement the junta also denounced "a restriction of freedom to come and go in Kidal [north-east of Gao] and Gao".

It called the rights violations a "crime against humanity" and urged international efforts to "condemn these crimes and their perpetrators".

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