By Julian Pecquet - 05/15/12 11:00 PM EDT
The west African nation of Mali is facing its worst human rights crisis in half a century as a result of fighting between Tuareg and Islamist rebels and the government, Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday.
The report says hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in northern Mali, where Tuareg rebels have taken over the famed caravan city of Timbuktu and declared their own state. Dozens of people are being “jailed arbitrarily, killed and sexually assaulted,” the report alleges, and the Tuaregs are using child soldiers.
"After two decades of relative stability and peace, Mali is now facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960," Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher, Gaetan Mootoo, said in a statement. "The entire north of the country has been taken over by armed groups who are running riot. Tens of thousands of people have fled the region, creating a humanitarian crisis in southern Mali and in neighboring countries."
The report calls on all sides in the conflict to treat civilians humanely and stop torture and arbitrary killings. And it says the international community should step up and “financially support the work of UN agencies facing a serious humanitarian crisis affecting tens of thousands of [displaced people] inside of Mali and refugees all other affected countries of the sub-region, notably Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Guinea.”