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UN expert urges stronger protection of civilians in northern and central Mali

BAMAKO / GENEVA (9 March 2017) – Serious security threats in northern and central areas of Mali are putting civilians at risk and hampering their access to basic social services, says a UN human rights expert at the end of an eight-day mission to the country.

The Independent Expert, Suliman Baldo, says: "One indicator of this growing insecurity is the very high number of closed schools in central and northern parts of the country, which may deprive many children of their right to education."

Mr. Baldo deplored the rise in roadside checkpoints by armed groups and dissidents and the increasing number of attacks on people travelling, including theft of vehicles and the targeting of humanitarian workers. Such crimes, he said, were undermining the security of people living in the affected regions.

The Independent expert also expressed shock at the number of ongoing attacks which have made the peacekeeping operation in Mali one of the deadliest in the world today. He also paid tribute to those who have given their lives in the ultimate sacrifice for Mali to regain peace and stability.

During his mission, Mr. Baldo travelled to Gao in the north of the country, where the first joint patrols of combatants representing the parties to the 2015 peace agreement were launched on 23 February. He said: "I encourage the international community to support this process so that these patrols can protect the local population.”

Mr. Baldo added that a suicide attack on a military base last January in which dozens of people are reported to have been killed showed that the enemies of peace always had the capacity to strike.  He said an announcement last week (2 March) of the unification of several violent extremist groups under the banner of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb showed that the groups were determined to thwart the progress made in implementing the peace agreement.

"To counter the destabilizing purpose of those who want to derail the peace process is the responsibility of the parties to the agreement and of Mali's international partners," Mr. Baldo added.

"I have addressed a number of issues, including the question of impunity for human rights violations committed during the 2012 crisis when the north of the country was occupied by extremist groups, followed by a military coup - and in the ensuing period, which has included the fight against terrorism. I call on national and international forces to respect human rights in the conduct of counter-terrorism operations and to increase transparency in investigating allegations of violations related to these operations,” said Mr. Baldo.

The Expert also expressed concern about conditions of detention and violations of the rights of women, migrants and refugees. He noted some modest progress but remained concerned about the lack of advancement on key issues such as the fight against impunity for serious human rights violations and the capacity of the judicial system in the north and Centre of Mali.

The Independent Expert urged all parties to the peace agreement to continue to fulfil their commitments under the accord saying it was now necessary to take measures to reassure and secure local populations and to allow the return of state authorities throughout the region as provided for in the peace agreement.

"The parties owe it to the Malian people to continue to find consensual solutions to their differences and to accelerate the deployment of state resources, including security forces and administrative and judicial personnel, to northern and central areas of the country. The well-being and security of the communities that the parties claim to represent is at stake,” Mr Baldo warned.

He urged the three parties to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to the population centres affected and ensure the protection of humanitarian personnel and their operations. "The implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, and especially the core human rights provisions, is necessary to ensure civilians are safeguarded,” he said.

The Independent Expert welcomed progress in the field of transitional justice, in particular with the official opening of the Regional Offices of the Justice, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR) and the starting of depositions. He stressed that much remained to be done, especially in the field of public awareness, but said the process was on the right track.

"In order to complete its work effectively, the Commission will need sustained technical and financial support," Mr. Baldo observed.

During his visit, the Independent Expert met the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Security and Protection of Civilians and other senior officials of the Malian Government, representatives of civil society, including victims' associations and representatives of the armed movements Platform and CMA in both Gao and Bamako. Mr. Baldo also held talks with members of the diplomatic community and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Mali.

The independent expert will present a report on the situation of human rights in Mali to the Human Rights Council later this month.
END

Mr. Suliman Baldo (Sudan) took up his post as an independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali on 1 August 2013. The mandate was renewed by the UN Human Rights Council on 15 April 2014 for a period of one year to assist the Government of Mali in its efforts to promote and protect human rights and to implement the recommendations contained in the resolutions of the Council. Mr. Baldo served as Director for Africa at the International Center for Transitional Justice in New York and the International Crisis Group. In 2011, he was one of the three members of the International Commission on Post-Election Violence in Côte d'Ivoire, set up by the UN Human Rights Council.

Recent reports of the Independent Expert. 

The independent experts are part of what is referred to as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special procedures, the most important body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, are the general term applied to the Council's independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that address specific situations Countries or thematic issues around the world. Experts on special procedures work on a voluntary basis; They are not part of the UN staff and they do not get a salary for their work. They are independent of governments and organizations and perform their functions on an independent basis.

UN Human Rights country page Mali

For additional information and media inquiries, please contact:
In Geneva: Brian Ruane (+41 22 928 9724 / bruane@ohchr.org)
In Bamako (during the visit): Guillaume Ngefa (+223 79879118 / ngefa@un.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Bryan Wilson, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant1@ohchr.org)

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