AFP – International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Wednesday she had ordered an immediate inquiry into the situation in Mali where Islamists have taken over the north of the country.
“I have instructed my office to immediately proceed with a preliminary examination of the situation,” Bensouda said in a statement after talks with Malian Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly.
Mali said last week it planned to ask the ICC to probe atrocities allegedly committed by armed groups occupying the north. They are accused by rights bodies of rapes, executions and use of child soldiers.
Bensouda told AFP last week that the ongoing destruction of the shrines of Muslim saints in Timbuktu was a war crime, and that the court was collecting information on the matter.
Mali›s interim prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra on Tuesday presented a roadmap for rescuing his country from a post-coup crisis to the region›s lead mediator.
His meeting with Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore comes a day after Diarra promised in a national address to form a unity government to steer the country back to stability after the March coup, as demanded by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Diarra said that during their two-hour meeting, he and Compaore discussed the roadmap, which lays out a one-year plan for a return to constitutional rule, and the formation of a unity government to oversee the transition.
Diarra also said ECOWAS military experts were in the process of carrying out an «audit» of the foundering Malian army to determine its needs.
«We will need to be able to write very precise requests to the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS in accordance with the audit’s results,» he said.
ECOWAS wants to send a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from Bamako.
The west African regional organisation has given Mali’s embattled interim authorities until July 31 to form a unity government or face suspension from the 15-nation group.
A more inclusive government is expected to come up with a framework to win back the vast desert north of Mali, which was taken over by hardline Islamists and rebel groups after the coup.
The aim is to unite the disparate political forces in Mali to take back control of the north and halt attacks in Bamako against public figures and journalists.
The attacks have been carried out by armed men believed to be close to the former military junta, which has handed over power but remains influential.