Mali Conflict Reopens Debate on Detention of Terrorist Suspects

Mali Conflict Reopens Debate on Detention of Terrorist Suspects

Experts in national security law watched with interest when France intervened militarily against Islamic extremists in Mali earlier this year. Would France detain individuals that it and Malian forces had seized and, if so, how would it treat them? Would it follow the lead of the United States by holding the prisoners as enemy combatants? If not, how would France, or its Malian partners, treat those captured during the fighting?

France has thus far shown no desire to employ a Guantanamo-style solution. But it remains unclear whether prisoners will be prosecuted under Malian criminal law or handled in some other manner. According to one report, some prisoners are being held by a Tuareg militia formerly allied with the rebels that has pledged to convey to France information it obtains from key suspects. While it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, the French intervention in Mali highlights the continuing uncertainty surrounding the treatment of terrorism suspects arrested during military operations -- a question the United States has struggled with for more than a decade.

International law gives important but ultimately limited guidance. International humanitarian law (IHL) provides a comprehensive framework for detention in armed conflicts waged between nation-states. The 1949 Geneva Conventions, for example, provide detailed rules governing the detention and treatment of prisoners of war and civilians captured during international armed conflicts.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.