Worsening Mali security situation is damaging human rights, UN expert finds after visit

The expert will present a report on the human rights situation in Mali to the Human Rights Council in March 2018-


GENEVA, Switzerland, December 4, 2017–The human rights situation in northern and central Mali is causing growing concern, as the country’s security situation deteriorates and attacks rise alarmingly, a UN expert has concluded after an official visit.

 

“Mali is facing enormous and complex challenges in governance, security and development, and this precarious situation creates an environment in which grave violations of fundamental human rights can multiply,” said Suliman Baldo, the UN’s Independent Expert on Mali.

“I urge the international community to continue strengthening its technical and financial support, so the country can overcome its enormous challenges including the humanitarian issue and the fight against terrorism.”

He said the number of security incidents had increased “alarmingly”, affecting many ordinary citizens who were being targeted either by extremists or criminals. People’s civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights were all suffering, he said.

“The lack of security in some northern and central areas has already led to the closure of several hundred schools, which is unacceptable,” said Mr. Baldo.

Some attacks, including the attempted murder of the Chief Justice of Mali’s High Court and the kidnapping of the President of the Niono tribunal, demonstrated a strategy to target symbols of the state, he said. The rising number of attacks in the Kidal, Mopti and Segou regions, and the presence of armed terrorist groups, were worrying, he added.

Mr. Baldo demanded that all those responsible for carrying out attacks should be brought to justice, noting that the International Criminal Court was closely monitoring events.

The expert noted that the number of attacks targeting humanitarian workers in 2017 was double the number which took place in 2016, stressing that he condemned all attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers, peacekeepers and security forces.

“Humanitarian workers told me that the humanitarian situation is worsening but is being forgotten, because the crisis in Mali is one of the least well-funded in the world,” Mr. Baldo stressed.

“Almost 20 per cent of the population is facing food insecurity, and 1.2 million people need some support to access water, sanitation and hygiene. The delivery of basic services is being hampered because local authorities are either absent or lack the capacity to meet people’s needs, and the security situation in parts of the country is hampering the delivery of aid to vulnerable people.”

Mr. Baldo welcomed a regional initiative to combat violent extremist groups, and the launch of the joint G5 Sahel force, saying it would help create a safer environment in Mali and the region. He stressed the need for a comprehensive and balanced strategy to be implemented.

“The G5 force should put in place appropriate safeguards and mechanisms to address human rights violations and abuses that might be committed by its troops in their operations,” added Mr. Baldo.

The expert also expressed deep concern over both the slow pace of dealing with war crimes and human rights abuses since 2012, including in the context of the fight against international terrorism, and over ongoing delays in the implementation of a peace agreement between the Government and armed groups – while welcoming the signing of a ceasefire agreement on 20 September.

During his visit, from 27 November to 1 December, Mr. Baldo met members of the Government, representatives of civil society, including victims’ associations, representatives of armed movements, signatories of the peace agreement, and humanitarian groups, as well as members of the diplomatic corps and United Nations staff.

The expert will present a report on the human rights situation in Mali to the Human Rights Council in March 2018.

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Mareeg senior news editor since 2001 and he can be reached at news@mareeg.com