The French government responded Jan. 11 to a request from Mali, a former colony, to send troops to the country to help thwart the advance of foreign and Islamic rebels descending from the north. Control over northern Mali was lost in a coup in early 2012.
Human Rights Watch issued a letter to Hollande and members of the Economic Community of West African States asking assurances international humanitarian law would be observed.
The group noted, however, that French forces are operating in a "challenging environment" where Malian fighters are suspected of committing human rights violations.
Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, said the multilateral mission in Mali should be complemented by support for political developments in the country. "Vigorous" military actions must be equaled by political resolve.
"They must be carried out with full attention to human rights and humanitarian concerns," he told the U.N. Security Council. "And they should be reinforced by strategies to address the many transnational threats that combine to breed extremism and weaken governance not just in Mali but across the Sahel."
An al-Qaida raid on a natural gas facility in eastern Algeria was allegedly a response to the French engagement in Mali.