UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday condemned the "rampant impunity" as human rights abuses rise in Mali, warning that accountability was essential for peace and security in the strife-torn West African nation.
Bachelet called on Malian authorities to "break the cycle of impunity" and to establish "impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the military".
Failure to do so, Bachelet warned, could affect security. "Accountability must prevail to ensure peace," she said.
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in 2012 and has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.
Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Epicentre of Sahel conflict
Central Mali has become the epicentre of the Sahel-wide conflict, where ethnic killings and attacks on government forces are frequent.
The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) recorded 617 human rights abuses, including 165 killings by armed groups, from January to June 2021.
The figure represents a 37 percent increase from the 449 abuses and 121 killings documented from August to December 2020.
"I note that the Malian prime minister recently said he is committed to ending impunity and so I call upon the government to translate this commitment into action without delay," said Bachelet.
"I urge the Malian authorities to ensure that the rule of law is respected and human rights upheld."
MINUSMA has recorded at least 328 abductions in the first six months of 2021, up sharply from the 187 cases in 2020, and a four-fold increase on abductions in 2019.
Former colonial power France, which intervened in Mali in 2013 to beat back the jihadists, currently has 5,100 soldiers deployed across the Sahel region.
But French President Emmanuel Macron announced earlier this month that he would wind the force down.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)