AP

Man sentenced to death in Mali for UN peacekeeper killings

Jan 25, 2023, 5:40 PM | Updated: Jan 26, 2023, 1:40 pm

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A Mali court sentenced a man to death for the killings of three United Nations peacekeepers almost four years ago, the U.N. mission in Mali said Thursday.

The court in Bamako imposed the death sentence for a February 2019 attack on five peacekeepers, three of whom died, the mission reported in a tweet. The slayings happened in the rural Siby area, which is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the West African nation’s capital city,

The death penalty hasn’t been carried out in Mali since 1980 due to a moratorium on executions, according to the U.N.

Thousands of United Nations peacekeeping troops have been in Mali for nearly a decade to protect civilians from extremist violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that nonetheless has killed thousands.

The country is one of the world’s most dangerous places with a peacekeeping mission. For the ninth consecutive year, it had the most peacekeeper killed while deployed there, 14, the U.N. reported this month. The U.N. mission in Congo was next with 13, followed by the Central African Republic with four peacekeepers killed, the U.N. said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, asked for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ reaction to the Mali court ruling, said: “This is the second time that attacks against U.N. peacekeepers have been the focus of judicial prosecution, resulting in trials and convictions.”

“I think this week’s trial, from where we stand, was a part of the efforts of Mali to improve their judicial response to attack against peacekeepers,” he said. “We welcome the accountability … but our position against the death penalty remains.”

In March 2021, the court in Bamako tried and convicted nine people for an attack on peacekeepers six years earlier.

Since mutinous soldiers ousted Mali’s government in 2020 and again the following year, the relationship between the junta and the peacekeeping mission has become strained. The government has constrained the peacekeepers’ ability to operate, and countries such as Benin, Germany, Sweden, Ivory Coast and the United Kingdom have announced troop withdrawals.

Conflict analysts say the verdict is a sign of a better partnership between the two.

“During uncertain times in terms of relations between the mission and the Malian government, it’s good to see results of joint collaboration which led to bringing those responsible to justice and holding them accountable,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank focused on economics and policy.

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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