21 March 2018
The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with
Suliman Baldo, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, under its technical assistance and capacity building agenda item.
Mr. Baldo said that during his most recent visit to Mali, he had noticed progress on the implementation of the peace and reconciliation agreement. However, setbacks had presented themselves regarding the security situation. Mr. Baldo had been told that people lived in fear and were constantly exposed to the risk of targeted assassinations. Radical Islamic groups were carrying out attacks and Malian security forces were engaging in human rights abuses during counter-terrorism operations. He noted that while Mali had committed itself to fighting impunity, the situation remained a challenge and serious human rights violations must be referred to the competent courts.
Speaking as the concerned country, Mali said it was facing increased violent extremism, terrorist attacks, and organized crimes, as well as attacks on humanitarian workers, leading to grave abuses of human rights. Mali had made significant progress in the protection of human rights despite the challenging security context. The Government had taken sustained measures to achieve justice and reconciliation, and fight impunity, and it was making significant efforts to investigate all human rights violations.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers voiced concern over the deteriorating security situation in Mali. Terrorist organizations were expanding their activities, primarily in regions where State forces were absent. Speakers urged the Government to increase the presence of security forces across northern and central regions of the country. Delegations noted the importance of ensuring that the upcoming elections in Mali were free and fair. Speakers were encouraged by Mali’s commitment to improve the human rights situation in the country and to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms.
Speaking were the delegations of European Union; Estonia; Germany; Denmark; Senegal; Spain; United States; Côte d'Ivoire; France; China; Botswana; Algeria; Sudan; Burkina Faso; Luxembourg; United Kingdom; Norway; Canada; and Benin.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Service for Human Rights; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; United Nations Watch; and International Catholic Child Bureau, (in a joint statement with International Movement of Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus).
The Council will next hold an interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Libya under its technical assistance and capacity building agenda item.
The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali (A/HRC/37/78).
Presentation by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Mali
SULIMAN BALDO, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, said he was presenting his fifth report since taking up his mandate. His goal was to support Mali in its efforts to promote and protect human rights and implement Human Rights Council resolutions. Earlier this year, during his tenth visit to Mali, he had visited the central region of the country. He had met with representatives from several ministries and human rights commissions. The mandate had always benefited from the full cooperation of the Malian Government. Furthermore, were it not for the support of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, he would not have been able to undertake his activities.
During his most recent visit, he had noticed progress on the implementation of the peace and reconciliation agreement. The agreement’s monitoring committee had established a timeframe for the launch of the disarmament and reintegration process for former fighters. This represented an important step toward achieving the peace agreement. However, setbacks had presented themselves regarding the security situation. During his visit, he was told that people lived in fear and were constantly exposed to the risk of targeted assassinations. Radical Islamic groups were carrying out attacks. International forces, including the United Nations mission, were facing attacks, including from improvised explosive devices. Malian security forces were also engaging in human rights abuses during counter-terrorism operations. The security situation was having a serious impact on the rights of civilians. Since January of this year, dozens of civilians had been victims of explosives placed on roads. The local economy and public offices were affected. Schools were forced to close, affecting 214,000 students. Terrorist groups were expanding their activities and threatening the freedom of belief of the population.
Mr. Baldo noted that while Mali had committed itself to fighting impunity, the situation remained a challenge and serious human rights violations must be referred to the competent courts. The Government must also allocate proper resources to defence forces if peace courts were expected to function effectively. A national reconciliation draft bill was being considered that would provide a de facto amnesty for perpetrators of serious rights violations. Such a law must be drafted in a way that did not preclude access to justice for victims of serious human rights violations.
Statement by the Concerned Country
KADIDIA SANGARE COULIBALY, Minister of Human Rights of Mali, noted that her country was facing increased violent extremism, terrorist attacks and organized crimes, as well as attacks on humanitarian workers, leading to grave abuses of human rights. The Government of Mali took note of the Independent Expert’s report and thanked him for his efforts. Since the thirty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council, Mali had made significant progress in the protection of human rights despite the challenging security context. It had adopted a national policy on human rights and a plan of action, the national transitional justice policy, the national policy for the fight against violent extremism and terrorism, and the law on the protection of human rights defenders. The Government had taken sustained measures to achieve justice and reconciliation, and to fight impunity, and it was making significant efforts to investigate all human rights violations, including those committed by the armed forces. To that end, the Government had set up a verification mission. The human rights situation remained precarious and thus the Government called for the renewal of the Independent Expert’s mandate.
European Union voiced concern over the deteriorating security situation in Mali. The Government was urged to step up efforts to implement the peace and reconciliation agreement as a means to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice. Estonia said the volatile security situation required that Mali investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses. Estonia asked what measures could be taken to ensure the free and fair nature of upcoming elections. Germany called on the Government and all parties to intensify their efforts to implement the provisions of the peace and reconciliation agreement. Germany asked the Independent Expert what the status of preparations for the upcoming elections was.
Denmark shared concerns about the rapidly deteriorating security situation and the growing influence of terrorist groups. Denmark asked what the greatest challenges to the functioning of the judicial processes were and how the international community could assist. Senegal welcomed the creation of two ministries charged with promoting and protecting human rights. However, the situation in northern and central Mali was worrisome as terrorist groups expanded their activities. Spain said increasing insecurity was the result of activities of terrorist groups in areas where State authorities were absent. The establishment of the Commission of Truth and Justice was essential to combatting impunity. The judicial branch must also be strengthened.
United States noted that continued insecurity due to weak governance and delays in implementing the June 2015 peace agreement in Mali had allowed non-State groups and violent extremist organizations to commit abuses with impunity. What more could the international community do to support the peace process in the country? Côte d’Ivoire noted the commitment of Mali to improve human rights and its good collaboration with the Independent Expert. In spite of those positive aspects, ongoing terrorist attacks against security forces of Mali were worrying, and the international community should help Mali undertake the prosecution of the perpetrators. France condemned violence against civilians and humanitarian actors in Mali, and supported the initiative of the G5 Sahel countries to combat terrorism in Mali and the region. The progress made by the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission should be highlighted.
China firmly supported Mali’s efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and integrity, and measures taken to promote and protect human rights. A comprehensive solution should treat the root causes of the conflict, and China supported the initiative of the G5 Sahel countries to fight terrorism in the country and region. Botswana noted that the important steps taken by Mali to promote transitional justice had been undermined by the political, security and humanitarian concerns attributable to delays in the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation two years after its signature. The national security forces should be professionalized. Algeria shared the view of the Independent Expert that dealing with extremism required a coordinated response in order to restore the authority of Mali over all of its territory and to establish a lasting peace. Algeria urged the international community to provide support to Mali toward that end.
Sudan commended Mali for its efforts to ensure respect for human rights, in addition to its cooperation with the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. Mali was facing a number of challenges, and this was an obstacle to the achievement of its human rights commitments. Burkina Faso said restoring and building peace in Mali was important for the Sahel region, and strongly supported the independence and territorial integrity of Mali. It condemned the constant attacks on the Algiers Peace Agreement and applauded Mali’s remarkable achievements in political security so that national reconciliation was inclusive. Luxembourg welcomed the achievements made by Mali, and shared the concern expressed by the Independent Expert on extremist violent groups and their impact on the situation. It condemned the attacks against civilians and humanitarian actors, and noted with concern that a large number of schools had been closed down due to security.
United Kingdom regretted to find Mali in the same position as last year, noting that the implementation of the peace process remained slow. All parties must fully support the process, re-establish civilian authority, and reduce the space for terrorists, which would enable the Government to tackle modern slavery, including trafficking. Norway said all parties to the peace agreement should prevent human rights abuses. It was particularly concerned about the effect of the conflict on the violation of the rights of women, in particular female genital mutilation, as well as its effects on the right to education. Canada said the establishment of an enabling environment for human rights remained a challenge, and included arbitrary arrests and executions made by the Government. Canada supported the involvement in the peace process, and the effective implementation on the agreement of peace and reconciliation. Benin applauded Mali’s efforts to strengthen the foundations of peace and security in the country. The international community must support the Government in its fight against terrorism.
International Service for Human Rights congratulated Mali for adopting legislation to protect human rights defenders. The adoption of the law must be considered a good practice to be followed by other States. Mali was encouraged to implement the law effectively. International Federation for Human Rights Leagues was increasingly worried about the upsurge of violence in Mali. The Government was urged to accelerate investigations of crimes committed in northern Mali as combatting impunity was essential to lasting peace. United Nations Watch said that since the signing of the peace agreement, terrorist activities had spread across the country. Islamic terrorist groups were responsible for serious rights violations. Insufficient State presence across the country was exacerbating the problem. International Catholic Child Bureau, in a joint statement with International Movement of Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus, thanked the Independent Expert for highlighting human rights violations and the alarming situation of schools in northern and central Mali. The closing of schools placed youth at a higher risk of radicalization.
SULIMAN BALDO, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, said the questions asked by participants reflected the challenges faced by Mali. A number of questions had addressed how progress could be made while at the same time fighting impunity. With regard to the judicial procedures, there were a number of obstacles, including underfunding. Only one per cent of the State budget went to the justice system. Another problem was the ruling for the most atrocious cases, which had been transferred from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to the courts in the north of the country which were not ready to handle these cases. This impasse had led to non-governmental organizations asking for the transfer of jurisdiction of these crimes to a special court for terrorism, located in Bamako. This court would require travel to the other areas of the country, but in practice it was not possible for them to move through the north and centre of the country. There were also questions concerning priorities in the area of justice. Mr. Baldo would lobby the Government to ensure that justice was provided to victims of serious human rights violations.
Regarding the role of the peace courts, he believed that the signatories to the Peace Agreement should make efforts to implement their obligations in the agreement. Radical groups had been able to take control of entire parts of the country, forcing State representatives, who were often subjected to threats or abductions and killings, to withdraw from the regions. The security situation would not improve unless Malian authorities could extend their control. Signatories of the Peace Agreement should deploy true efforts.
Concerning the priorities of the mandate of the Independent Expert in the future, Mr. Baldo said the administration of justice was a priority. This could be achieved by ensuring that the justice and security sectors were properly funded and staffed. Concerning the representation of women and their status in society and role in public life, he welcomed the adoption of the 2017 law which had established a quota of 37 per cent for elected and appointed posts for each gender. In practice, however, there were very few women on the monitoring committee for the peace and reconciliation process. Much more needed to be done in this sphere, and women had to be involved in the process.
Regarding the law, though the Law on Human Rights Defenders had been adopted, it had not been implemented and posed concerns for human rights organizations. Lobbying the Government of Mali was a way to influence this, and would help the proper implementation of the law. Mr. Baldo paid tribute to the important role of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali which had offices in all critical areas of the country, as well as human rights offices in the field. Nevertheless, a real exchange of information was needed with judicial authorities and troop commanders, so that the Ministries of Justice and Defence were aware of situations that required their immediate attention. Bodies in the United Nations system must take a proactive role. The Government must take initiatives in addressing situations which concerned their own security forces.
For use of the information media; not an official record