OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—From above, the photographs show a stretch of charred land in the middle of the desert and a mass grave covered in dried tree branches, where people living around Bounti, a village in central Mali, said those who had been killed by French airstrikes were buried. On the ground were images of strewn flip-flops; an empty parka with one outstretched arm; a mangled metal teapot and pieces of shrapnel—some designated with serial numbers—placed next to bright yellow evidence markers and metal rulers.
This is the photographic evidence contained in a just-released 36-page report from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as Minusma, who this week confirmed that French forces struck a wedding on Jan. 3, where 100 people were celebrating, killing 22 people—19 of whom died on the site, all males. The investigation found three of the dead were suspected of being affiliated with an Islamist militant group operating in the region, called Katiba Macina, and that three died on their way to seek medical help.
Minusma is authorized by the UN Security Council to protect civilians in Mali’s continuing conflict, among other roles, and the peacekeeping mission is bound by a Security Council resolution to investigate and document allegations of human-rights violations and abuses committed throughout Mali. This includes all violations connected to international forces, including France’s Operation Barkhane, Minusma peacekeepers and the G5-Sahel force as well as national forces during cross-border military operations. All violations are supposed to be documented and made public in the quarterly reports of Secretary-General António Guterres. Releasing this new report soon after its publication, however, is unusual for the UN, particularly because it relates directly to France, a permanent member of the Security Council.
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