What are the facts being investigated?
On January 3, a French strike targeted the village of Bounti, in central Mali. The French authorities announce that they have hit “an armed terrorist group identified as such”, with three successive bombs having “neutralized” around thirty Katiba Serma jihadists. This organization is affiliated with the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, or JNIM in Arabic), a jihadist alliance itself affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
But several testimonies from residents present during the bombing asserted shortly after, to the NGO Human Rights Watc (HRW), that a wedding ceremony was taking place at that time. They also claim that the victims were not only members of the Katiba Serma, but mainly civilians invited to the ceremony.
For their part, the French authorities have always assured that there was no marriage and that intelligence had “formally” established that they were dealing with one of the many gatherings of jihadists in the region.
What does the UN report say?
The UN document, drafted from the investigations of the Human Rights Division of Minusma, supported by the United Nations forensic science, indicates that it is indeed a group of men brought together by a marriage near from the locality of Bounti which was hit by an airstrike from Barkhane on January 3. The affected group “was overwhelmingly made up of civilians, who are people protected against attacks under international humanitarian law,” the text says.
At the end of the survey, direct interviews with at least 115 people, almost as many telephone interviews and a certain number of group interviews, the Minusma “is able to confirm the holding of a wedding celebration. who gathered around 100 civilians at the scene of the strike, including five armed people, suspected members of the Katiba Serma, “says the summary of the report.
This strike “raises important concerns about respect for the principles of the conduct of hostilities, in particular the precautionary principle”, according to the document. Minusma recommends that the Malian and French authorities conduct “an independent, credible and transparent investigation”. She advocates examining, and even modifying, pre-strike processes. It also recommends that the French and Malians seek to establish responsibilities and grant, if necessary, compensation to the victims and their relatives.
What is France responding to?
The French Ministry of the Armed Forces on Tuesday again denied having committed any blunder in Mali in January and issued “many reservations” on the United Nations investigation. The ministry “maintains consistently and strongly reaffirms” that “on January 3, the French armed forces carried out an air strike targeting an armed terrorist group identified as such,” he said in a statement.
Paris also expresses “numerous reservations as to the methodology adopted” and “cannot consider that this report provides any evidence contradicting the facts as described by the French armed forces”.
This investigation “opposes unverifiable local testimonies and unsupported hypotheses to a robust intelligence method of the French armies, framed by the requirements of international humanitarian law”, retorts the French Ministry of the Armed Forces. The latter judges in this context “impossible to distinguish credible sources from false testimonies of possible terrorist sympathizers or individuals under the influence (including the threat) of jihadist groups”.
Source site www.europe1.fr