The 49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council
28th February to 1st April 2022
Interactive Dialogue with Independent Expert on Human Rights in Mali
Item 10: Technical assistance and capacity-building
29th March 2022
By Jamel Nampijja / GICJ
The Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Mali, Mr Alioune Tine, presented his report during the Interactive Dialogue of the 51st meeting of the 49th regular session of the Human Rights Council. Mr Tine’s report focused on the ongoing security crisis in Mali and its impact on the lives of civilians, as well as the overall human rights situation. Mr Tine made an appeal to the international community, the African Union, ECOWAS and all relevant stakeholders to provide Mali with the necessary assistance to ensure that the country gradually restores the peace and authority of the state as well as essential social services throughout the national territory.
The representative of Mali stressed that despite the challenges the country is facing, the primary responsibility is to promote and protect human rights and end the conflict through peaceful means. Speakers from several human rights institutions and NGOs delivered statements condemning the 2020 coup d’état and stated that they were alarmed by the human rights violations perpetrated by Islamist extremist groups, armed groups, and national forces. The speakers called for a ceasefire and emphasised the importance of legitimate dialogue and guaranteeing freedom of speech, especially for journalists and human rights defenders.
The mandate of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Mali was established in 2013 by Human Rights Council resolution 22/18. The resolution requests the Independent Expert, within the framework of the mandate, to collaborate with all entities of the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Group of Five for the Sahel and its States members, neighbouring States and all other international organisations concerned, in addition with the civil society of Mali. The resolution further requests the Independent Expert to submit a report to the Human Rights Council.
Mr Alioune Tine assumed responsibility as the Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Mali on May 1, 2018. On June 22 2020, the mandate of the Independent Expert was renewed by the Human Rights Council (Resolution 43/38) for a 1 year period to enable him to evaluate the human rights situation in Mali and to provide support to the government in promoting and protecting human rights as well as strengthening the rule of law and implementing the recommendations made in Council resolutions. He is one of the founding members and is President of the African Meeting for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO) and Coordinator of the Forum of African NGOs at the World Conference against Racism in 2000.
The Independent Expert’s report
Mr Tine stated that after his visit to Mali in August 2021, the degradation of the general security situation exceeded a critical threshold which has intensified the threat of attacks against civilians by violent extremist groups such as Islamist extremist groups, Garde Nationale du Mali (GNM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). These groups have committed an array of human rights violations against civilian populations including targeted killings, abductions, active intimidation and death threats. These groups were the main perpetrators of human rights violations and infringements of human rights during the period covered by the Independent Expert’s report.
Mr Tine expressed concern about reports published by human rights organisations and media outlets depicting serious violations of human rights that were allegedly carried out by the defence and security forces of Mali during their operations. Such acts included executions, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary killings, forced disappearances and the use of arbitrary arrest and detention. On March 3rd 2022, residents near the village of Danguere Wotoro hamlet within the Segou region discovered the bodies of approximately 30 people who had allegedly been executed by the Malian armed forces in the Diabali sector. Mr Tine urged the Malian authorities to carry out a complete, impartial, and independent investigation with regard to all alleged violations of human rights in order to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. Regarding the human rights situation and the rights of women and children, Mr Tine noted that numerous cases of sexual and gender-based violence have been reported. He stressed that the situation remained troubling during the period covered by the report, emphasising the need to address the growing number of school closures due to insecurity and rates of school collapse which are depriving millions of children of the right of education.
Speaking for the delegation of the country concerned, Mr Mamoudou Kassogue acknowledged the report of the Independent Expert and asserted that Mali was committed to promoting and protecting human rights. He reiterated the state’s commitment to respecting and upholding human rights despite the challenges facing the country. The representative confirmed that a judicial body addressing crimes related to sexual aggression during conflict had been established and that legal assistance would be provided to victims who wished to press criminal charges against human rights abusers. Mr Kassogue emphasised that authorities were also working to end impunity for those who have carried out human rights abuses.
He acknowledged that the constitution of Mali guarantees the right to freedom of expression and opinion, as evidenced by the freedom of criticism enjoyed and sometimes abused by political actors and members of civil society. Since 2018, human rights defenders have benefited from a status that obliges the state to facilitate the exercise of their activities, guaranteeing confidentiality of their sources of information and ensuring their protection throughout the nation including special protection which is granted to women human rights defenders.
Additionally, Mr Kassogue assured the Council that the government of Mali remains committed to the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process as stipulated within the Algiers peace agreement. He reaffirmed that the Malian government was determined to continue its cooperation with all human rights mechanisms including the International Criminal Court (ICC) which enabled exchanges of information on violent incidents such as those that occurred in Oggossagou, in central Mali, as well as the arrest and transfer of persons sought by the court.
The European Union reiterated its strong condemnation of the coup d’état in May 2021 and the disturbance of institutional order in Mali. The EU representative, Ms Marleen Steenbrugghe, encouraged the transitional authority to continue dialogue with ECOWAS to guarantee rapid restoration of the constitutional order including free, transparent, inclusive and credible elections and the adoption of a comprehensive timetable for the transition period. Ms Steenbrugghe urged the transitional authorities to take measures to guarantee freedom of movement for international missions operating in Mali. She reiterated that the use of mercenaries and the private Russian Wagner group, whose actions have contributed to the human rights situation in Mali, undermines the efforts of the international community to support Mali and ensure protection of civilians.
The representative from the United States, Ms Sarah Creedon, expressed concern about the human rights situation in Mali and warned against the Russia-backed Wagner Group’s involvement and deployment in Mali, due to its failure to adhere to international humanitarian law. She acknowledged with deep concern the reports of human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and impunity and condemned the activities of violent extremist groups for their attacks against civilian populations. Ms Creedon encouraged the Malian security forces to cease their excessive use of force and to ensure that perpetrators of human rights abuses are held accountable for their actions.
Speaking on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic states, Her Excellency Ms Anna Jardfelt, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, expressed concern about the Malian leadership’s level of cooperation with the Russian Wagner group and was shocked by the continued reports of human rights violations committed by national forces, as well as the shrinking space for freedom of expression and media freedom in the country. Ms Jardfelt was also concerned about the transitional government’s postponement of the elections far beyond the agreed timeline. She urged the Malian government to put forward a clear timeline for elections as soon as possible. In this context, strengthening access to justice, fighting impunity, and increasing accountability are crucial. Ms Jardfelt concluded her statement by posing the question to the Independent Expert of how the Malian government can combat human rights abuses and increase accountability, and what the international community can do to effectively encourage respect for human rights in Mali.
The representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ms Rita French, called on the transitional government to carry out transparent and fair investigations to tackle impunity for human rights violators, and to bring an end to all forms of discrimination against women, including gender-based violence. She encouraged the Malian government to commit to improving the security situation and restoring state authority and trust in state institutions and emphasised that the political will of the government is necessary to ensure accountability. Ms French reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to supporting efforts to build stability and protect civilians through humanitarian programmes and to work to facilitate an integrated approach to ensuring stability under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). She also asked the Independent Expert what the international community can do to hold those responsible for committing human rights abuses to account.
Mr Mao Yizong presented a statement on behalf of China and commended the Malian government for their efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. He stressed China’s support for Mali in strengthening its engagement and coordination with regional organisations to seek a settlement conducive to the stability and development of the country and its neighbours. The delegate noted that the security and stability of Mali has an important bearing on the Sahel and wider region. Mr Yizong urged the international community to respect Mali’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity by providing technical assistance in accordance with the needs of the government and the people of Mali.
On behalf of the Group of African States, the representative from Cote d’Ivoire expressed support for the ongoing dialogue between the transitional government in Mali, ECOWAS, the AU, and the international community. He encouraged the parties involved to agree on a suitable transition timetable for a rapid return to constitutional order that will guarantee the participation of the greatest possible number of Malians in the upcoming elections. The delegate applauded the commitment made by the Malian government to increase the number of women in its institutional bodies to ensure greater levels of representation.However, the representative expressed concern over the persistent insecurity, violent extremism, and inter-communal violence taking place in Mali. He recommended that the international community continue to strengthen their support for Mali in order to help it achieve a lasting solution that will sustain, promote, protect and respect human rights. The group called on Mali’s partners to support its efforts in setting up bodies to establish a truth, justice, and reconciliation commission.
The representative of Senegal, Mr Mountaga Wagne, welcomed and commended the ongoing commitment of the Malian government to improving the human rights situation in the country and its efforts to support local efforts for peace, conflict prevention, mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation. He stressed the need for Mali to utilise traditional mechanisms to build and strengthen peace to allow the country to end the vicious cycle of inter-community conflict and achieve peace throughout the country.
Mr Tine called on the international community, the African Union and ECOWAS to consider appropriate solutions to address the deteriorating security crisis in Mali which has progressed into neighbouring countries such as Benin, Senegal, and Togo. He stressed the need to ensure that the judiciary is able to carry out its primary function of holding human rights abusers to account and ensuring justice for victims. The Independent Expert noted that it is challenging for investigations to be carried out and launched due to the intimidation of judges by armed groups. To ensure freedom of speech and expression as well as guaranteeing a safe space for the government opposition, Mr Tine committed himself to continue discussions with the Malian government. The Independent Expert emphasised that dialogue is necessary to achieve results in addressing the challenges resulting from human rights abuses.
Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) welcomes the report of the Independent Expert. GICJ is concerned by the grave human rights violations taking place in Mali including, but not limited to, torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary killings, and forced disappearances by violent extremists, armed groups, and national forces. The increase in the intensity of attacks on schools in Mali is alarming, a situation which has led to a growing number of school closures that are preventing millions of children from having the right to education. Children continue to endure the burden of the conflict, approximately 66% of internally displaced persons are children. More to that, the growing number of child marriages due to the conflict is disconcerting, with 54% of girls under the age of 18 forced into early and unsolicited marriages; therefore, GICJ recommends that the Malian authorities reinforce and ensure the implementation of human rights conventions that protect children’s rights.
GICJ further reiterates the urgent need for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to lift sanctions imposed on Mali. The use of sanctions has proven ineffective due to the adverse effect they have had on the innocent population of Mali. GICJ encourages ECOWAS, the African Union, and the government of Mali to engage in dialogue and negotiation to achieve peace and improve the overall human rights situation in the region.
In the wake of the ongoing “Russophobia”, GICJ urges the International Community to refrain from politicising the Russian Wagner Group’s presence in Mali since there has not been any concrete evidence suggesting their operations in the region. External actors especially the west and particularly Mali’s former colonizer France should be very cautious and abstain from safeguarding and advocating their own interests but rather prioritise promoting peace and security in Mali.
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