Mali: Several Non-International Armed Conflicts with Various Insurgent Groups

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in Mali. Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in Mali.

31 January 2019

Since 2012, the Government of Mali has engaged in multiple and overlapping non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) against various insurgent groups, most notably Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the Plateforme, and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

France and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) support the Government of Mali in its efforts to restore state control over areas in the hands of non-state armed groups and are parties to these NIACs.

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of the various NIACs that are taking place in Mali, including information about parties to these conflicts.

Criteria to Classify Situations of Armed Violence as Armed Conflicts

‘We use two criteria to assess whether a situation of armed violence amounts to a NIAC under international humanitarian law: the level of armed violence must reach a certain degree of intensity that goes beyond internal disturbances and tensions, and at least one side to the conflict must be a non-state armed group that exhibits a certain level of organization’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

‘In the case of Mali, we considered that both criteria are met for the armed violence involving the Government of Mali on the one hand and JNIM, the Plateforme, and the CMA on the other’ she adds.

A NIAC with Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM)

In recent years, the intensity of violence between Malian armed forces and JNIM has been significantly high. Since JNIM’s emergence in March 2017 as a coalition of different armed groups previously active in Mali, notably Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group has carried out numerous violent attacks against Malian soldiers. These have increased significantly in 2018.

‘Accordingly, we concluded that the intensity of violence threshold is met to classify the situation as a NIAC’ underlines Dr Redaelli.

As of September 2018, JNIM members are estimated to have between 1,000 and 2,000 fighters. While scant information is available on the group’s internal structure, other factors suggest that the non-state actor meets the minimum organization criterion.

RULAC Non International Armed Conflicts in Mali Armed Groups

NIACs with the Plateforme and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) Despite the June 2015 Peace Agreement

Between 2014 and 2015, two coalitions of armed groups emerged: The Plateforme and the CMA.

The CMA is an umbrella organization that was created in 2014 and that encompasses a number of armed groups that rebelled in 2012, including the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) and the Coalition of the People of Azawad (CPA). Its objective is to obtain self-determination for the northern regions of Mali and the broader Azawad.

The Platforme was founded in June 2014 as a reaction to the creation of the CMA. It is composed of a number of armed groups who were military active in Mali since 2012, such as the Imghad Touareg and Allied Self-Defense Group (GATIA), the Coalition of the People of Azawad (CPA), the Coalition of Movements and Patriotic Resistance Front (CM-FPR) and the Popular Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MPSA).

In 2015, the two groups engaged in peace talks with the government, which led to the conclusion of a peace agreement on 20 June 2015. Nevertheless, armed confrontations did not cease and significant violations of the ceasefire took place in 2017. Furthermore, as of today, both coalitions still control considerable parts of the territory in the northern part of Mali.

‘The existence of a ceasefire agreement does not in itself put an end to a NIAC: violence frequently continues after the conclusion of such agreements and a NIAC only ends in the case of a lasting cessation of armed confrontations without real risk of resumption’ explains Dr Redaelli.

‘This is not the case in Mali. The 2015 peace agreement did not lead to such a lasting cessation and armed clashes have continued on a regular basis. As such, the level of violence and degree of organization of both coalitions continue to meet the criteria to classify these situations as NIACs’ she adds.

The Involvement of France and MINUSMA

Since July 2013, MINUSMA has been active in Mali, supporting the government to restore state control over areas in the hands of armed groups and implement the 2015 peace agreement.

France has been providing ongoing military support to the Malian armed forces in their fight against rebel groups since 2013. MINUSMA’s mandate also authorizes French forces to intervene in support of MINUSMA when the mission is under imminent and serious threat, and upon the request of the Secretary-General.

‘In light of the involvement of MINUSMA and France in the conflict and the number and nature of armed confrontations between them and the rebels, we concluded that MINUSMA and France are parties to the conflict’ underlines Dr Redaelli.

‘As this United Nations mission and France are intervening with the consent of the Mali government, these involvements do not affect the classification of the conflicts, which remain non-international in character’ she adds.

On the other hand, RULAC concludes that the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel (FC-G5S), is not a party to the NIACs in Mali. FC-G5S was founded in March 2017 by G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), with the support of France and with the aim of countering terrorism and tackling organized crime in the Sahel.

‘We draw this conclusion on the basis of the low intensity and number of armed confrontations between the FC-G5S and the non-state actors active in Mali’ underlines Dr Readelli

RULAC Non International Armed Conflicts in Mali MINUSMA

About RULAC

The RULAC database is unique in the world in that it legally classifies situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict – international or non-international – under international humanitarian law (IHL).

‘This is crucial because IHL applies only in armed conflicts. Before humanitarian players, civil servants or academics can invoke IHL or analyze whether IHL was violated, they must know whether it applies. Outside armed conflicts, only international human rights law applies’ underlines Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Portrait of Sonali Wanigabaduge News

MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: What our Students Say

6 January 2020

In this interview, Sonali Wanigabaduge, who is enrolled in our Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law, tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.

Read more

Portrait of Monica Garcia News

Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict: What Participants Say

20 April 2020

Monica Garcia works in Geneva as Executive Assistant at Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Access Campaign. She tells in this interview about the programme and what it will bring to her career.

Read more

Iraq, Mosul, Shortly after the start of armed operations to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), 19 oil wells have been set ablaze by retreating armed groups south of the city. Event

Protecting the Environment in Situations of Armed Conflict

7 July 2020, 12:30-14:00

This online IHL Talk will provide an overview of the rules of international law providing protection to the natural environment, as well as of initiatives aimed at clarifying and/or reinforcing such rules.

Read more

A general view of participants during of the 33nd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. Training

The Universal Periodic Review and the UN Human Rights System: Raising the Bar on Accountability

2-6 November 2020

This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.

Read more

Egypt, Cairo, 2011: Makeshift barricade outside interior ministry gate. Short Course

The Right to Life and the Right of Peaceful Assembly in Transitions

Fall 2020

This online course will examine the protection afforded by international human rights law in these contexts, with a specific focus on the right to peaceful assembly – which is at the heart of such movements –, and the right to life – which is often violated during such transitional moments.

Read more

ICC Trial Chamber VIII declares Mr Al Mahdi guilty of the war crime of attacking historic and religious buildings in Timbuktu and sentences him to nine years’ imprisonment Project

Modes of Liability for International Crimes

Completed in January 2015

This project intends to clarify the conditions of accountability for international crimes by providing a detailed assessment of the customary international law status of, in particular, the actus reus and mens rea elements of modes of liability: planning, instigating, conspiracy, direct and indirect perpetration, co-perpetration, the three forms of joint criminal enterprise, the doctrine of common purpose under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, command responsibility and aiding and abetting.

Read more

Screenshot of the RULAC webpage Project

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC)

Started in May 2007

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.

Read more

Cover page of the manual Publication

#ESCR AND #SDGs: Practical Manual on the Role of UN Human Rights Mechanisms in Monitoring the SDGs that Seek to Realize Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

published on July 2020

Christophe Golay

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

Beyond the 2020 Treaty Body Review: The Role of National Human Rights Systems

published on June 2020

Domenico Zipoli

Read more