Mali's army has committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law while fighting armed groups in the country, Amnesty International said today.
The charity said it had seen evidence that Malian forces, which have the backing of France and Britain, have been responsible for numerous human rights abuses including the extrajudicial executions of civilians.
Amnesty researchers spent 10 days in the wartorn West African country visiting the towns of Segou, Sevare, Niono, Konna and Diabaly.
In its latest briefing Amnesty said that Islamist armed groups have also committed of serious abuses, including unlawful killings and the recruitment of child soldiers.
And it said there is evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike carried out as part of a joint operation by the French and the Malian armies.
The briefing includes witness testimonies alleging that the Malian army arrested and extrajudicially executed more than two dozen civilians, mainly in the northern city of Sevare on January 10 - the eve of the French intervention.
Eyewitnesses described seeing soldiers dump the bodies of several people into a well in the Wailude neighbourhood.
"Once the bodies had been thrown and were in the well, [the soldiers] fired two or three bursts of machine gun fire into the well," one witness said.
The Malian army has also carried out arbitrary arrests of people suspected of ties to the militants, the charity said.
Several detainees reported having been beaten or otherwise ill-treated while in detention.
Amnesty International's Mali Researcher Gaetan Mootoo said: "As fighting is continuing in Mali, all parties to the conflict must ensure that they respect international humanitarian law - and in particular to ensure the humane treatment of captives while taking all necessary precautions to minimise harm to civilians.
"Many people are genuinely afraid of being arrested, or worse, by the military. The security forces must ensure that people are protected from any reprisals based on ethnicity or perceived political sympathy."
The charity also found evidence indicating that five civilians - including a mother and her three young children - were killed in an air strike carried out by the French and Malian armies. The strike occurred on the morning of January 11 in the town of Konna.
France has reportedly denied involvement in the incident, but Amnesty says senior Malian government and military figures confirmed the joint operation.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn told the Star: "There are strong and credible reports of human rights abuses against many innocent people in Mali both by the Malian forces and the air power of the French.
"It is high time that the British government considered what the purpose of its involvement in Mali is and why it is so relaxed about human rights abuses committed by the Malian army."
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