Mali asks Hague court to investigate rebel crimes

AMSTERDAM Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:30pm EDT

Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group, who said they had come from Niger and Mauritania, ride on a vehicle at Kidal in northeastern Mali, June 16, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group, who said they had come from Niger and Mauritania, ride on a vehicle at Kidal in northeastern Mali, June 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Adama Diarra

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Mali has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate atrocities that have taken place in the country since January 2012, the chief prosecutor said on Wednesday.

A mix of local and foreign Islamist fighters, including some fighters linked to al Qaeda, are in control of northern Mali after they hijacked a rebellion initially launched in January by secular Tuareg separatists.

About 300,000 people have been displaced in a conflict marked by killings, rapes, torture, and attacks on cultural sites.

The court has been monitoring events in Mali since the conflict erupted and may launch a formal investigation.

Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement Mali had sent the court a letter requesting "an investigation to determine whether one or more persons should be charged for crimes committed".

"I have instructed my office to immediately proceed with a preliminary examination of the situation," she said, adding she would decide later on whether to open an investigation.

The court can monitor or investigate events in Mali even without the government's request, since Mali is signed up to the ICC. Mali said earlier this month it planned to ask for the investigation.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alison Williams)

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