GENEVA (15 August) – A UN expert today welcomed steps taken to restore constitutional order and a return to civilian rule in Mali, but expressed grave concerns about the resurgence of extremist violence and a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
“The deterioration of the security situation in Mali has a considerable impact on the protection of human rights and the humanitarian situation,” said Alioune Tine, UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Mali.
In a statement issued at the end of a 10-day visit to the country, the expert remarked on the resurgence and frequency of attacks and violence committed by violent extremist groups in the country’s north, center and around the capital Bamako.
“There is a poisonous climate marked by suspicion and mistrust, with a continuous narrowing of civic space, the hardening of the Malian transitional authorities, and a malaise that does not spare international partners,” Tine added.
Tine called on Malian transitional authorities and international partners to urgently readapt the security responses and strategies that have failed to effectively protect the civilian population and their fundamental human rights.
The UN expert welcomed recent progress towards restoring constitutional order in Mali and the implementation of the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, despite persistent challenges.
“I welcome the adoption by the Malian authorities of a timetable for transition with a duration of 24 months, together with a chronogram detailing the various stages leading to elections and return to civilian rule,” Tine said.
He noted that the roadmap for a return to constitutional rule in Mali included the enactment of a new electoral law and the establishment of a constitution-drafting commission in June 2022.
Consensus had been reached during a decision-making meeting about aspects of the Peace Agreement in August 2022 on the integration of 26,000 ex-combatants into the armed forces and state services, the expert said.
However, Tine warned that Mali faces serious security challenges.
The UN expert said that during discussions with key actors in the Ménaka region, there was overwhelming agreement that the security and human rights situation had deteriorated alarmingly since March 2022. “Three of the four cercles in the region – or 75% of the territory – are under the control of violent extremist groups,” the expert said.
Human rights violations and abuses had also shown dramatic increases, the expert said, with MINUSMA documenting 1304 violations and abuses from 1 January to 30 June, a 47.17 percent increase from the six-month period prior.
“Violent extremist groups continue to be the main alleged perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses in Mali, but the high number of violations attributed to the Malian defense and security forces is of great concern,” the expert said.
According to the expert, credible sources had reported that in some cases these violations were committed by Malian defence and security forces, accompanied by foreign military personnel described as Russian military officials. He said Malian authorities continue to deny reports that a Russian private military company is operating alongside Malian security forces. They insist Russian military personnel in Mali are military trainers deployed as part of bilateral state-to-state cooperation.
“Regardless of the status of foreign military personnel Mali must, in accordance with its international human rights obligations, act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, and punish human rights violations and abuses, whether perpetrated by the state or third parties, including individuals, corporations, or other entities, as well as agents acting under their authority,” Tine said.
Mali must also ensure that the victims receive just and effective remedies for the harm they have suffered, the expert said.
Tine urged Malian authorities to grant national and international organisations and institutions access to the areas where human rights violations and abuses have occurred, to independently investigate and report on the situations.
"I was particularly shocked to see with my own eyes victims with visible signs on their bodies of atrocious, cruel and barbaric torture they had suffered at the hands of Malian security forces. Their testimonies were unbearable," said Tine.
He was dismayed by the continued shrinking of civic space, including censorship of the media and self-censorship by journalists, media professionals and civil society actors for fear of reprisals.
“This poisonous climate led several actors to self-censor, fearing reprisals from the Malian transitional authorities and/or their supporters,” the expert said.
Tine recommended that the Malian authorities, the African community and the international community maintain a constructive dialogue to guarantee the stability and security of Mali, strengthen efforts to protect the civilian population, and avoid isolating the country. He also emphasised the urgent need to support the restoration of state authority throughout Mali.
During his visit, Tine met with Malian authorities, civil society and victims’ associations, non-governmental organisations, diplomats and UN agencies.
Tine will present his annual report to the Human Rights Council in March 2023.
Mr. Alioune Tine (Senegal) took office as independent expert on the human rights situation in Mali on 1 May 2018. The mandate of independent expert was renewed by the Human Rights Council on 1 April 2022 for a period of one year to assist the Government of Mali in its actions to promote and protect human rights and in the implementation of the recommendations made in Council resolutions. Mr. Tine was a founding member and 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. Between 2014 and 2018, Mr. Tine was Amnesty International's Regional Director for West and Central Africa. He has published many articles and studies on literature and human rights.
The independent experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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