Mali/Sahel: Publication

Legal aspects of intercommunal violence in Mali

21 March 2021

The Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre in Mali has produced a legal brief which focus on the qualification of the situation in Mali and the applicable law. This legal brief provides a detailed analysis of the legal frameworks governing the multiple and overlapping Non-International Armed Conflicts (NIACs) in Mali.

Under international law, the current situation in Mali consists of several non-international armed conflicts involving notably the Malian armed forces, the French armed forces and several armed groups. International humanitarian law (IHL) applies to acts of hostilities and other events linked to these armed confrontations. The Malian context is also characterized by other acts of violence, including intercommunal violence, which are not necessarily related to these armed conflicts. If not, these other acts are covered (and prohibited) by human rights law and Malian law. The application of international law (IHL and human rights law) has important consequences, including for the legality of the use of force, the protection owed to affected populations and the qualification of certain violent acts as international crimes.

This study sheds light on various legal questions related to intercommunity violence that has been evolving steadily over the recent years in Mali. Violence across community lines has accelerated in recent years, intensifying the scale and complexity of humanitarian challenges in Mali and in the Sahel region. This violence has not only left scores dead but also caused massive internal displacement of people in the central and northern parts of Mali. The dynamics of intercommunity violence in Mali, often planned and coordinated, and carried out with automatic weapons, as noted in various United Nations’ reports, are not necessarily related to the ongoing armed conflict. This study has significant practical consequences, for the humanitarian community for their advocacy work, and those who seek to assist effective prosecution of this violence, but particularly for the Malian government that must take appropriate measures to ensure that perpetrators of this violence are brought to justice, in full compliance with national and international legal standards.