Some Malian soldiers were implicated in “gross violations” after the discovery of some mass graves in its troubled central region plagued by violence between security forces and Islamist militants.
The statement from the Defence Ministry followed local media reports that 25 bodies were found in mass graves after a military crackdown on suspected jihadists and allied ethnic militia in central Mali.
Human rights groups accuse the Malian military of conducting extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, torture and arbitrary arrests against suspected sympathisers of jihadist groups – charges it promised in the past to investigate.
“The Defence Ministry confirms the existence of mass graves implicating certain persons in FAMA (Malian armed forces) in gross violations that caused deaths in Nantaka and Kobaka in the region of Mopti,” a statement on the Defence Ministry website said.
It added the defence minister instructed the public prosecutor to open an inquiry. The ministry “reiterates its determination to fight impunity and engage its forces in the strict respect of human rights” the statement added.
In April, Amnesty International raised the alarm over reports six people were found in a mass grave in the Mopti region. In February government said it was investigating accusations the army abducted and executed suspected jihadist sympathisers.
The military frequently reports killing several “terrorists” in its security campaign.
“The announced investigation is good news, but promises aren’t enough,” Human Rights Watch associate director for West Africa Corinne Dufka said.
“Since 2017, I’ve documented over 60 alleged executions by the army of suspects buried in at least seven common graves, none of which have resulted in justice for the families.”
The West African country has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over its north in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year.
Growing violence raised doubts about whether Mali will be able to hold credible elections scheduled for the end of next month, in which President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will seek a second term.