Mali denounces 'fictitious' UN report on army killings

mali soldiers

Soldiers of the Malian Army Forces during an anti-terrorist operation in the Sahel ibn 2015. The security situation in Mali has been deteriorating steadily with separatists, salafists and jihadists mounting deadly insurrections since 2012.

Photo credit: Philippe Desmazes | AFP


Mali's military junta on Saturday denounced as "fictitious" and "biased" a UN report that said the army and foreign fighters executed at least 500 people during a 2022 anti-jihadist operation.

Rejecting revelations that the UN had used satellites to gather information for its report, the authorities also announced an investigation into "espionage".

The statement came a day after the UN released its long-awaited report into the events that unfolded in the central town of Moura between March 27-31, 2022.

"No civilian from Moura lost their life during the military operation," said a statement read out on state television by government spokesman colonel Abdoulaye Maiga.

"Among the dead, there were only terrorist fighters."

Condemning what it called a "biased report based on a fictitious narrative", the government also expressed surprise that the UN investigators had used satellites above Moura to gather information, without government clearance.

It was launching an investigation into espionage, an attack on the external security of the state and "military conspiracy", it added.

The figures cited by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) amount to the worst atrocity the Sahel country has experienced since a jihadist insurgency flared in 2012.

It is also the most damning document yet against Mali's armed forces and their foreign allies.

The nationality of the foreign fighters is not explicitly identified in the report, but Mali has brought in Russians that Western countries and others say are Wagner mercenaries.

'Extremely disturbing'

In its report, the OHCHR said it had "reasonable grounds to believe that at least 500 people were killed in violation of norms, standards, rules and/or principles of international law".

The victims were "executed by the FAMa (Malian Armed Forces) and foreign military personnel" who had complete control over the area, it said.

The UN report was published after a lengthy investigation by the human rights division of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

Around 20 women and seven children were among those killed, while evidence suggests 58 women and girls were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence, the report said. 

Acts of torture were carried out on people who had been detained, it added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called the findings "extremely disturbing".

"Summary executions, rape and torture during armed conflict amount to war crimes and could, depending on the circumstances, amount to crimes against humanity," he said in a statement.

MINUSMA's mandate runs out in June, and there are growing doubts over its ability to fulfil its peacekeeping mandate given deteriorating relations with the ruling junta in Mali and the withdrawal of some contributing countries' soldiers.