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Press briefing notes: Mali, Bolivia and Racism and Sport event in Geneva

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 12 March 2013

1) Mali

The UN Deputy High Commissioner Ms Kyung-wha Kang is this morning delivering a statement at the Human Rights Council introducing the High Commissioner’s report on the situation of human rights in Mali.* In that statement she also gives a brief update on the human rights situation since the report was concluded towards the end of last year.

The report cautions against the risk of reprisals and inter-ethnic conflicts in the event of military intervention in northern Mali. Unfortunately, as the Deputy High Commissioner says in her statement, these appear to have materialized since January, when the intervention did take place. While the violations by the extremist groups have largely been stopped, there have been widely reported allegations of serious human rights violations taking place in the recovered territories.

In order to substantiate these reports and provide the Council with updated information, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, deployed a monitoring mission of human rights officers to Mali on 18 February. The team met with relevant national authorities, including government ministries, civil society organizations and UN agencies working in the country. It also conducted interviews with victims and witnesses of human rights violations, including IDPs in Bamako, Mopti, Sévaré and Timbuktu.

The preliminary findings of the mission suggest that the recent military intervention in the North of Mali was followed by a serious escalation of retaliatory violence by Government soldiers who appeared to be targeting members of the Peuhl, Tuareg, and Arab ethnic groups who are perceived to be supportive of the armed groups.

The situation has been exacerbated by the use of inflammatory messages, including in the media, stigmatizing members of these communities, thousands of whom have reportedly fled out of fear of reprisal by the Malian army. Those who remain in the country are afraid of being targeted not for what they have done, but for who they are.

The Deputy High Commissioner noted that among the human rights issues that require the most urgent attention are the displacement of populations from Northern Mali; the increase in incidences of ethnically motivated human rights violations, including violence; and the continuing insufficiency of the government’s response to human rights violations, including to the challenges in the administration of justice.

Ms. Kang acknowledged the public commitments made by the Government of Mali to fulfill its obligations under international human rights law and to fighting impunity, as well as statements by senior government and military officials condemning human rights violations and retaliatory violence. These commitments are, however, not yet sufficiently translated into concrete actions to ensure that prompt and independent investigations are carried out in order to identify and prosecute perpetrators and provide effective remedies to victims.

We call on the Malian authorities to protect the communities at risk and to ensure that their troops act in accordance with human rights law and international humanitarian law. The civilian population should be protected and the suspected rebels who have been arrested should be treated humanely and their due process rights respected. Allegations of involvement of the elements of the Malian army in acts of reprisals against civilians should be investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice.

*See Report A/HRC/22/33 at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session22/Pages/ListReports.aspx
The full statement of the Deputy High Commissioner is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13119&LangID=E

2) Bolivia

We welcome the promulgation, on 9 March 2013, of the Comprehensive Law to guarantee women a life free from violence in Bolivia (Law 348), which broadens protection of women against various forms of violence and establishes the eradication of violence against women as a priority of the State.

The law also includes the crime of femicide in the penal code, with a prison term of 30 years without pardon.

The draft was elaborated over the past three years, with the participation of the main women’s organizations and State institutions, and the technical assistance of the UN human rights office in Bolivia. The High Commissioner had earlier recommended adopting the necessary legal framework to protect women against violence, trafficking and gender-motivated killings of women.

3) Racism and Sport event in Geneva

Our office will host a panel discussion on “Racism and Sport” on March 21, from 13:15 to 14:45, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva (Room XIX). The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will open the panel discussion. Participants will include Kevin-Prince Boateng of AC Milan Football Club and former captain of the French national football team, Patrick Vieira.
More detailed information, including the full list of participants, will be made available later on today in a media advisory.
ENDS
For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+ 41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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