LONDON, UK – The International Criminal Court has warned Mali it may investigate reports of atrocities committed in the West African country since violence erupted there in January.
"The office has been closely following the developments in Mali since clashes erupted around 17 January 2012," the ICC prosecutor's office said in a statement released Tuesday, warning that the court would decide “in due course” whether to conduct a preliminary investigation.
"According to several sources, including senior United Nations officials, crimes such as killings, abductions, rapes and conscription of children may have been committed by various groups in the northern part of the country," it added.
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Ethnic Tuareg fighters, uniting under the banner of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and teaming up with Islamist militants, began launching attacks on towns and army bases in Mali in January, and gained control of much of the country’s northern desert region.
The Tuareg have long complained of marginalization by the authorities in the capital, Bamako. Last month soldiers ousted the country's democratically elected president and seized power, saying they needed more arms to fight the Tuareg rebellion.
Civilian rule has since been restored, but UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said she is "concerned that the longer the instability continued, the more the human rights situation appeared to be deteriorating, with thousands of people already fleeing the northern region to seek refuge in neighbouring countries."
Mali is now “a fractured territory without a state,” Reuters reports, as competing rebel groups hold sway in the north and tensions between coup leaders and politicians simmer in the south.
Last week ex-President Amadou Toumani Toure took refuge in neighbouring Senegal after several of his political allies were arrested by the military, according to the BBC.
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