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19.06.2020 Europe

Abuses by G5 soldiers in Sahel 'could threaten international support'

© AFP - Thomas Samson
LISTEN JUN 19, 2020
© AFP - Thomas Samson

French Defence Minister Florence Parly has urged governments in the Sahel to uphold human rights during military operations, in a report on the progress of France's regional Operation Barkhane before the French senate's foreign affairs committee. 

Parly said there had been recent military progress in the fight against the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (IS-GS) armed group in the border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. This zone had been described as a “priority” area during the summit of the G5 Sahel grouping of countries in Pau at the start of this year. 

Further discussions on progress against armed groups in the Sahel region will take place during a summit in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, expected for the end of June

Parly was positive about the deployment of the European Takouba force, made up of special forces troops from several European countries under French command, as well as the strengthening of the G5 Sahel force of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.

Respect for human rights

The French defence minister called on governments of the G5 group to ensure that their troops respect human rights during military operations amid accusations over executions carried out by soldiers

“Political leaders of the Sahel countries are perfectly aware of what's at stake,” Parly told French senators from the foreign affairs committee. “They see the gap widening each time atrocities are committed, between the people and the authorities,” she added, discussing how they needed to win the hearts and minds of the people in the Sahel during their military operations. 

Parly said that international support for operations against jihadist groups in the region could be called into question if rights abuses by G5 Sahel soldiers continue. 

Operation Barkhane was launched by the French military in August 2014, taking over from Operation Serval which targeted a jihadist offensive that had overrun northern Mali. 

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