With the recent political instability engulfing Mali, reports have surfaced that human rights situation is deteriorating as Tuareg-led rebels has seized the northern part of the country.
Reports say that civilians in norther Mali have been killed, robbed, raped and forced to flee.
The top United Nations human rights official today expressed deep concern on the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also called for urgent national and international action to end the political instability that has been fuelling recent violence in Mali.
She notes that it is difficult at this point to be sure of the scale of the human rights violations taking place. However, a variety of different rebel groups have been accused of looting private and public property, including hospitals and health care facilities.
Ms. Pillay is concerned that the longer the instability continued, the more the human rights situation will worsen.
Reports say thousands of people already fleeing the northern region to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that thousands of refugees have entered Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
On January this year, thousands of refugees fled to neighbouring countries to escape from recent outbreak of conflict in northern Mali clashes resumed between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, leading to the displacement of more than 200,000 people.
Reports say thousands of refugees have entered Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
In addition, mutineers Malian soldiers also launched forcible seizure of power from the democratically-elected Government and the mutineers announced the dissolution of the Government and seized control of the country. The mutineers demand for a return to constitutional rule.
Earlier this week, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) continues mediation effort by signing an agreement with country’s military junta.
Reports say the Mali’s junta overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure in a coup.
With the agreement signed by both parties, the military junta agreed to hand over power to the National Assembly president, in return for the lifting of sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and an amnesty of its members from prosecution.
The High Commissioner said reports suggest that tensions between different ethnic groups are fueling more violence, increasing the risk of sectarian violence as well.
Unveiled women have allegedly received threats and intimidation. There are allegations that non-Muslims in the northern part of the country may have been deliberately targeted and killed by extremist religious groups, she added.
She cites human rights violations, including illegal arrests, poor conditions of detention and attempts to restrict the right to freedom of expression, have been reported in the capital in Bamako in the wake of the military takeover on 22 March.
However, Ms. Pillay welcomed recent efforts to restore constitutional order, particularly today’s planned hand-over of power by the military coup leaders to the National Assembly Speaker.
The political situation, however, remains extremely tense and fragile, Ms. Pillay stressed.
The Tuareg, a nomadic tribe, have attacked several towns in northern Mali in mid-january and demanding autonomy.
This January, the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) – a Tuareg rebel movement, comprised of many warriors who launched a brutal attack against the Malian state military.
According to reports, MLNA has about 1,000 members and also includes Tuareg soldiers who deserted the Malian army.
The Malian government has claimed that MNLA of having links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Tuareg nomads are present throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Both Mali and Niger have battled Tuareg uprisings in the last decade.