Bavure Sahel, the French army in the sights of seven NGOs

Seven signatory NGOs recall that operations to fight “terrorism” cannot be conducted to the detriment of International Humanitarian Law

A United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) investigative report released on March 30 lists 19 civilians killed, and at least eight others wounded, in Barkhane Force airstrikes on January 3, 2021 in Bounti, DR. Douentza region in Mali. The elements of the investigation make it possible to confirm the holding of a marriage celebration gathering a hundred men aged from 23 to 71 years old at the place of the strike. Among them, five people were suspected members of an armed group according to UN investigators. The strike reportedly killed three of them, bringing the number killed to 22.

In its press release in reaction to the release of this report, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces maintains its position and confirms having “neutralized” elements identified as belonging to an armed “terrorist” group. The ministry also claims to have carried out the strike according to the targeting process in accordance with NATO standards, in strict compliance with international humanitarian law.

The signatory NGOs point out that operations to fight “terrorism” cannot be conducted to the detriment of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRD). Based on the results of the MINUSMA investigation into civilian damage, a strike targeting a gathering of around 100 people, including five suspected members of an armed group identified as “terrorist”, appears disproportionate to to the resulting military advantage.

This attack underlines, once again, that the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact radius in areas where civilians are concentrated generates 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 light to be shed on the strikes of January 3, 2021 in Bounti, and support MINUSMA’s recommendation 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 show the example of good practices in the protection of civilians by sharing, in full transparency, the information related to these strikes to report on the impact of military operations on civilians and by paying compensation. to the victims and their families.

NGO signatories

  1. Malian Association of Human Rights
  2. Action against Hunger
  3. CARE France
  4. Handicap International Federation – Humanity and Inclusion
  5. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  6. Kisal Observatory
  7. Oxfam France


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