The publication on 30 March 2021 of an investigation report by the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) into the air strikes by the Barkhane force that caused the death of 19 civilians in Bounti, Mali, on 3 January 2021, continues to provoke reactions. On Thursday, seven Sahelian and international non-governmental organisations, members of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Sahel, issued a joint statement in which they made a solemn appeal to France. Read the full press release.
« Paris, 1 April 2021 – An investigation report by the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) published on 30 March states that 19 civilians were killed and at least eight others injured during air strikes by the Barkhane force on 3 January 2021 in Bounti, in the Douentza region of Mali. The investigation confirms that a wedding celebration involving around 100 men aged between 23 and 71 was taking place at the site of the strike. Among them, five were suspected members of an armed group, according to UN investigators. The strike reportedly killed three of them, bringing the total number of people killed to 22.
In its statement in reaction to the report, the French Ministry of Defence maintains its position and confirms that it « neutralised » elements identified as belonging to a « terrorist » armed group. The Ministry also asserts that it carried out the strike in accordance with the NATO targeting process, in strict compliance with international humanitarian law.
The signatory NGOs recall that operations to combat « terrorism » cannot be conducted at the expense of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). On the basis of the results of the MINUSMA investigation, the civilian damage caused by a strike targeting a gathering of around one hundred people, including five presumed members of an armed group identified as « terrorist », seems disproportionate to the resulting military advantage.
This attack highlights, once again, that the use of high-impact explosive weapons in areas where civilians are concentrated leads to disproportionate or indiscriminate consequences. All parties to the conflict must place the protection of civilians and human security at the heart of any intervention in the Sahel, in strict compliance with IHL and IHL.
Our NGOs call for full disclosure of the 3 January 2021 strikes in Bounti, and support the recommendation of MINUSMA urging France and Mali to conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of this strike and the damage caused to civilians. France should set an example of good practice in the protection of civilians by transparently sharing information related to these strikes to account for the impact of military operations on civilians and by paying compensation to victims and their families.
- Malian Association for Human Rights
- Action Contre la Faim
- CARE France
- Handicap International Federation – Humanity and Inclusion
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
- Kisal Observatory
- Oxfam France ».