Independent Expert Completes First Mission to Mali

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BAMAKO, MaliMr Alioune Tine, who took office as Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali on 1st May 2018, has expressed serious concern over the continued deterioration of the security, human rights and humanitarian situation in the center of the country and in the region of Menaka.

The gradual increase in human rights violations and abuses even since the beginning of 2018 is alarming. In the central and Ménaka regions, there are an increasing number of deadly and heinous acts of violence with extrajudicial executions, recurrent allegations of mass graves, not to mention the numerous injuries and other material damage caused by identity violence, the explosion of improvised devices whose victims are civilians.

Added to this are the victims of attacks by armed groups and extremist groups that terrorize populations and communities by engaging in kidnappings, targeted killings and the destruction of property. All of this leads to a deeply worrying and unacceptable level of insecurity and serious human rights abuse.

The Independent Expert has collected direct and indirect accounts of several attacks by community militias, often with the participation of armed groups, resulting in the deaths, injuries, destruction or burning of property and displacement. The government has taken measures to tackle the problem, including the Prime Minister’s mission in the center of the country, the sending to Mopti of a reconciliation mission, led by the Minister of National Reconciliation and Cohesion in March and April 2018, or the disarmament of all civilians in the central region as ordered by the Prime Minister. In addition, the government has committed to open criminal investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses.

“I strongly recommend that the authorities take concrete action as a follow up to these statements by launching impartial investigations to bring to justice all alleged perpetrators. These attacks have become increasingly deadly and recurrent for various reasons with the involvement of armed groups causing a serious and worrying development that must be addressed urgently to stop the spiral of violence. I would not wish to see these communities torn apart and kill each other as a result of manipulation, “said the Independent Expert.

During his field mission to Mopti, the Expert heard members of civil society and community representatives on the issue of indiscriminate attacks by extremist groups, including Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam Wa al -Muslmeen (JNIM).

The very limited presence of the state in this region, its absence in several localities of the center, lack of basic community services and insecurity caused by extremists, armed groups, organized crime actors added to anti-terrorist operations which do not respect the international norms of human rights, are likely to create confusions and amalgams within the communities of the Region.

In addition, extremists take advantage of the absence of the state to exploit communities and oppose them against each other. It should be noted that at the end of February 2018, more than 657 schools were forced to close in the central and northern regions, affecting more than 190,000 students.

I strongly recommend that the authorities take concrete action as a follow up to these statements by launching impartial investigations to bring to justice all alleged perpetrator

The Independent Expert expresses deep concern about the increasing number of allegations of serious human rights violations by the Malian armed forces.

The Independent Expert commends the Prime Minister for his statement in May of this year reaffirming that the Government will not tolerate any exaction against the civilian population.

In addition, the Independent Expert emphasized to the authorities the need for a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the facts, that public and detailed explanations be provided, and that all alleged perpetrators be brought to justice.

On counter-terrorism operations, the Independent Expert was briefed on the workshop held on 7th and 8th May to develop a regulatory framework to prevent human rights violations related to G5 Sahel Joint Force. The Expert will follow up this workshop with the concerned parties.

The Joint Force G5 Sahel Command informed the Expert that, following the events in Boulkessy, they sent a fact-finding mission to the field which led to the suspension of the unit involved in this case. It is now up to the Malian authorities to continue the proceedings by bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice.

The Independent Expert notes that important steps have been taken in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, especially with regard to the provisions relating to security and security reform. The joint units of the Operational Coordination Mechanism have been set up in Kidal and Timbuktu.

The return of the administration was observed in Kidal. Registration of fighters eligible to participate in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program is continuing.

“I call on all actors to do everything possible to make these processes successful because the fundamental issue is the protection of civilians,” said the expert.

The Independent Expert raised with the authorities his concerns about certain provisions of the draft law on National Understanding that may violate human rights principles. This bill should be transmitted to the National Assembly after having been adopted by the Council of Ministers. Mr Tine was assured that the text was not definitive and that all concerns would be taken into account.

The Independent Expert was informed of the presence of internally displaced persons in the regions of Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, Menaka and Segou. To date, there are 61,404 internally displaced persons and 138,675 refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

The Independent Expert was also seized of serious human rights violations and abuses that continue to occur in the region of Menaka, some of which are attributed to armed groups including the Azawad Salvation Movement (MSA). ) and the Touareg IMGHAD Self-Defense Group and Allies (GATIA). From April 26 to May 18, 2018, 123 people were executed in the area. The Expert asks the Malian authorities to open judicial investigations as soon as possible in order to render justice to the many victims of these crimes.

The humanitarian situation in the region is getting worse. An estimated 4.1 million people are in need of food assistance. This year, severe acute malnutrition is projected to increase from 162,913 to 274,145 at the national level, and projected cases of moderate acute malnutrition also range from 470,000 to 582,000.

These figures include 11,232 children severely affected by severe acute malnutrition. 5 years and 489,238 children aged 6 to 59 months suffering from moderate acute malnutrition. In addition, 45,245 pregnant and breastfeeding women suffer from moderate acute malnutrition. It is an emergency on which we cannot close our eyes.

The Independent Expert has been informed of the continuing attacks against humanitarian workers. For example, on June 6th, 19 drivers of a humanitarian convoy were abducted. They were attacked, forced to stop and taken to an unknown place.

The diversion of food and humanitarian convoys is now one of the methods used by armed groups to spread violence and terror. The Expert recommends that armed groups respect humanitarian space and facilitate the access of humanitarian actors to populations in need of assistance and protection.

As for elections, the Expert believes that the presidential election must be truly free, transparent and peaceful and that it must meet international standards in this area. In his discussions with the authorities, the Expert placed particular emphasis on the freedom of peaceful assembly and association as well as on the freedom of access to the media throughout the electoral process.

The Expert believes that the presidential election is at a turning point in the democratic life of the Malian people. He believes that all the political actors must act so that the big national debate does not have a negative impact on the vulnerability of the situation of the country, but that it is an opportunity to bounce Mali and to provoke a hope for peace and security. The Independent Expert calls on all political actors to refrain from inflammatory hate speech or calls to violence.

During his visit, Mr. Tine met with members of the Government of Mali, representatives of civil society, including victims associations, religious and traditional leaders.

The Independent Expert wishes first to thank the Government of Mali and its institutions for the collaboration and cooperation in the accomplishment of its mission.

Mr. Tine also thanks the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali, Mahamat Annadif and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for supporting his first visit to Mali.

The Independent Expert will present his report on the human rights situation in Mali to the Human Rights Council in March 2019.