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Human Rights Council holds separate interactive dialogues on the human rights situation in Haiti and in Mali

MORNING

Concludes Interactive Dialogue on South Sudan
 
GENEVA (23 March 2016) - The Human Rights Council this morning held separate interactive dialogues with Gustavo Gallón, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, and with Suliman Baldo, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali.  It also concluded its interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in South Sudan.
 
Presenting his report on Haiti, Mr. Gallón focused on the following issues: illiteracy, prolonged arbitrary detention, absence of elections, impunity for past crimes, and the situation of victims of natural disasters.  He noted that the current governance difficulties in Haiti had to be addressed in a persistent manner and with concrete solutions.  The rights of Haitian women had to be given priority since they were particularly vulnerable in the country.
 
Haiti, speaking as the concerned country, stated that a number of measures had been initiated to hold elections, and to deal with pre-trial detention through the modification of laws.  Regarding illiteracy, measures had been undertaken but the process was ongoing and it required resources.  Other measures had been undertaken on strengthening the credibility of the judiciary and countering the problem of statelessness and registration of children. 
 
In the ensuing discussion speakers urged Haiti to work closely with the Independent Expert to implement recommendations, and emphasised the necessity of combatting pre-trial detention and impunity.  There was a need to advance the rule of law and security in Haiti as better access to justice and strengthening of the prison system were key to bringing about progress.  Haiti’s efforts to promote sustainable development and to eradicate cholera deserved greater support.
 
Speaking were European Union, Dominican Republic on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, Brazil on behalf of the Group of Friends of Haiti, Spain, United States, Chile, Cuba, France, United Kingdom, Morocco, Brazil, China, and Venezuela.
 
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: United Nations Watch, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and Human Rights Watch.
 
Presenting his report on Mali, Mr. Baldo underlined the great challenges faced by Mali in the fields of governance, security, and reform of the judiciary to combat impunity.  He shared his preoccupation about the intensification of attacks against civilians, the Malian armed forces, and forces of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the centre and south of the country.  Increased inter-community violence, drug trafficking and other organized crime were also of concern and that situation prevented refugees and displaced persons from safe returns. 
 
Mali, speaking as the concerned country, stated that the country had made progress, notably by having signed in May and June 2015 the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, as a result of the Algiers Process.  The Government of Mali was currently taking measures to fight impunity through a systematic opening of judiciary information in all cases of violations.
 
In the ensuing discussion speakers welcomed Mali’s progress in favour of peace, including the release of some political prisoners and the signing of a Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.  Speakers, however, noted with concern that the security situation had deteriorated in some parts of the country, affecting civilians and international peacekeepers and preventing refugees from returning safely.  Mali was encouraged to engage in security and justice sector reforms in order to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed since the beginning of the crisis, including sexual violence by security forces. 
 
Speaking were South Africa on behalf of the African Group, European Union, Estonia, Spain, Norway, Belgium, United States, Togo, France, New Zealand, Denmark, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Gabon, Djibouti, Algeria, Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Morocco, Chad, United Kingdom, Congo, Botswana, Egypt, and China. 
 
Also speaking were International Catholic Child Bureau, FIDH, United Nations Watch, and Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme.
 
At the beginning of the meeting the Council concluded the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in South Sudan, which started on Tuesday, 22 March.  A summary can be read here
 
During the dialogue speakers regretted the relapse of South Sudan into civil strife as the process of consolidating State institutions had just begun, and appealed to the international community to extend its full support to the country, including in the implementation of transitional justice. 
 
In his concluding remarks, Ivan Šimonović, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, noted that it was extremely important to note the commitment of the Human Rights Council to be involved in the prevention of continued violations in South Sudan, the issue of accountability to help break the vicious cycle, and ensuring a democratic space that would help the establishment and functioning of the transitional government.
 
Speaking were Mozambique, China, France, Ghana, Albania, Angola, Switzerland, United States, and New Zealand.
 
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Projects, International Service for Human Rights, and Arab Commission for Human Rights.
 
The Council will next meet at 1.30 p.m. to hold a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building, and to hear the presentation of country reports of the Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights, followed by a general debate.     
 
Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on its Mission to South Sudan
 
Mozambique said it was unfortunate that South Sudan had relapsed into civil strife as the process of consolidating State institutions had just begun, and appealed to the international community to extend its full support to the country, including in the implementation of transitional justice.  China said the problems of South Sudan could only be resolved through political means, adding that the imposition of external mechanisms would only create more human rights problems.  The Council should play a constructive role in that regard.  France condemned the serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan, some of which might constitute crimes against humanity, and called for the rapid establishment of the Hybrid Court.  Ghana urged the Government of South Sudan to take the necessary steps to disband every violence apparatus and bring the perpetrators to justice, also urging it to expedite action on the establishment of the Hybrid Court.  Albania expressed deep concern that the situation on the ground was deteriorating, and urged all States to support the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in South Sudan. 
 
Angola called for respect and cooperation with the mechanisms of human rights so that a climate conducive to peace and stability could be put in place, and reiterated its unflagging support to the Government of South Sudan, also calling on the international community to provide it with technical resources.  Switzerland noted that the report had emphasized that the violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan could be crimes against humanity, and recalled that if the State was not able or willing, the administration of justice was the responsibility of the international community through an international mechanism.  United States said the situation in South Sudan was one of the gravest facing the Human Rights Council, and that the United States had therefore sponsored a resolution to create a mechanism to monitor and report on the human rights situation in South Sudan, asking how the African Union’s efforts in establishing the Hybrid Court could be best supported.  New Zealand welcomed the report, which was harrowing in the extreme, and said that while the time for dire warning was well and truly past, the situation in South Sudan was not beyond all hope, urging all parties to the conflict to walk away from the abyss.
 
International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said that in light of the limited progress toward accountability, the Human Rights Council should create a Special Rapporteur with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations and abuses in South Sudan.  Human Rights Watch said the grave situation described in the report more than warranted a United Nations Special Rapporteur, not just to monitor the ongoing abuses, but also to contribute to justice and accountability. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, in a joint statement with CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation said no one could deny the scale of the crisis in South Sudan and the fact that violations committed may amount to crimes against humanity.  It called for the Human Rights Council to establish a long-term mandate to monitor and report on the situation.  International Service for Human Rights was shocked and dismayed that women had been subjected to sexual violence and harassment as groups allied to the Government were being permitted to rape women in lieu of wages.  Arab Commission for Human Rights said there was an urgent need for accountability.  What were the guarantees proposed for the operation of the Hybrid Court and the specialised judicial structure proposed by the High Commissioner?
 
Concluding Remarks
 
IVAN  ŠIMONOVIĆ, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, in concluding remarks, said he had recently returned from South Sudan where he had met with civil society and political factions.  It was extremely important to note the commitment of the Human Rights Council to be involved in three fundamental issues.  These were the prevention of continued violations, the issue of accountability to help break the vicious cycle, and ensuring a democratic space that would help the establishment and functioning of the transitional government.  In response to issues raised, namely by the Egyptian representative, for support for technical and capacity building in the area of human rights, Mr. Šimonović said that in the report there was a suggestion to prioritise some forms of support, precisely to civil rights society and the National Human Rights Commission of South Sudan.  The idea was that support to some State institutions and especially security institutions, which had been involved in violations of human rights, would be counterproductive.  This did not mean, however, cutting technical support for South Sudan in the human rights area.  It meant that the support would not be provided for buying new cars for the South Sudanese police, for example. 
 
Regarding the questions raised by civil society, the United Nations was willing to support the establishment of a Hybrid Court, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as a Reparations Authority.  It was vitally important that within the transitional government security forces, vetting took place.  The United Nations was ready to support such processes.   Although the national authorities and the African Union would be the main authority in the establishment of the Hybrid Court, the United Nations was willing to support all these three institutions.  There was also a need to support the local justice mechanisms in order to deal with the thousands of other violators, as the Hybrid Court would deal only with high-level perpetrators of violations. 


Documentation
 
The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti (A/HRC/31/77).
 
Presentation of Report by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti
 
GUSTAVO GALLÓN, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, focused  his presentation on the following issues: illiteracy, prolonged arbitrary detention, absence of elections, impunity for past crimes, and the situation of victims of natural disasters.  The new Government that had been formed in January 2015 had failed to organize elections on three occasions, the last one being in December 2015.  The Government had established a National Commission for Electoral Evaluation which had found procedural irregularities and had called for a political dialogue and a technical examination of the electoral machinery.  On 5 February 2016, the
President of Haiti Michel Martelly and the Presidents of the Senate and the House of Representatives had signed an agreement, according to which Mr. Martelly’s mandate would end on 7 February 2016 and then the Parliament would choose an interim President for 120 days.  The date for the elections had been set for 24 April 2016.  The holding of credible elections was at the centre of common interest in Haiti, and it was key for upholding human rights, Mr. Gallón stressed.  Turning to the issue of illiteracy, Mr. Gallón noted that the Government had not provided information concerning the ongoing literacy campaign.  Almost half of the population was illiterate and at the current pace the illiteracy would not decrease in the next 20 years. 
 
The reduction of arbitrary prolonged detention was another issue that required serious attention, Mr. Gallón said.  In March 2015 the Ministry of Justice had launched a campaign to enhance the work of judges, in cooperation with law students.  However, the campaign had not brought about concrete results for the persons in detention, who comprised almost 72 per cent of the incarcerated population of Haiti.  As for the situation of persons who were displaced in camps due to the earthquake and cyclones, 60,000 persons remained there.  Regarding the persons of Haitian origin who had had to leave the Dominican Republic, Mr. Gallón explained that 2,500 persons had been distributed in five camps where they lived in precarious conditions and risked contracting diseases such cholera.  He called on the authorities of Haiti to take urgent measures to provide access to persons deported from the Dominican Republic with access to health, education, food and drinking water.  Regarding the victims of cholera, he insisted on the recommendation that a commission for truth, justice and reparation be formed in order to provide redress to more than 9,000 victims of cholera.  Mr. Gallón noted that the current governance difficulties in Haiti had to be addressed in a persistent manner and with concrete solutions.  The rights of Haitian women had to be given priority since they were particularly vulnerable in the country.
 
Statement by the Concerned Country
 
Haiti, speaking as the concerned country, said the Independent Expert had visited and observed the efforts deployed by the Government to promote and protect human rights in Haiti.  A number of measures had been initiated, including on pre-trial detention, which was being dealt with by modifying the laws as well as providing alternatives.  Regarding illiteracy, a number of measures had been undertaken but the process was ongoing, and required resources.  After the postponement of the elections which had been due to take place on 24 January 2016, a political agreement had been signed between the executive and the legislative branches, resulting in a Provisional President, for a period of 120 days, whose mission was to name a Prime Minister by consensus, revitalise the provisional Electoral Council, and carry out the electoral process.   Other measures had been undertaken on strengthening the credibility of the judiciary and countering the problem of statelessness and registration of children.  Haiti thanked the Independent Exert for his solidarity with the Haitian people and the people of Haitian origin returning from the Dominican Republic, and for his petition to create the Truth, Justice and Reparations Commission. 


Interactive Dialogue
 
European Union urged Haiti to work closely with the Independent Expert to implement recommendations, and emphasised the necessity of combatting pre-trial detention and impunity.  Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, spoke in favour of the electoral process, and urged various sectors to give privilege to dialogue, noting that the situation of human rights in Haiti was complex and had been worsened by the earthquake in 2010.  Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Haiti, reiterated the Group’s support for the mandate of the Independent Expert within the context of technical assistance and capacity building, and added that Haiti’s efforts to promote sustainable development deserved greater support.  Spain thanked the Independent Expert for the report, which was far-reaching, and noted that it was only thanks to strong institutions with democratic legitimacy that threats facing Haiti could be dealt with.  United States asked the Independent Expert to share some observations on prison conditions and elaborate on conditions in the migrant settlements along the country’s border, among other questions.  Chile said that there was a need to advance the rule of law and security in Haiti, adding that better access to justice and strengthening of the prison system had to receive concerted efforts, also asking the Independent Expert for his suggestions for measures to reduce social inequality.
 
Cuba reiterated that any discussion on Haiti had to recall the responsibility of the international community for the reconstruction and development of Haiti, as it had a heavy debt towards this country.  All had an obligation to provide financial resources to Haiti.  France encouraged Haiti to continue its cooperation with the Independent Expert on the promotion of human rights.  France supported the five priorities highlighted by the Independent Expert, namely combatting social inequalities, improving conditions of detention, reinforcing the institutions, fighting against impunity, and addressing humanitarian needs.  United Kingdom noted that the human rights situation was complex and that the five key challenges identified by the Independent Expert had hampered progress for decades.   Strong political will by the Haitian Government, active engagement by civil society, together with continued engagement by the international community, were essential to effectively improve the situation.
 
Morocco welcomed the initiatives of Haiti to combat hunger and malnutrition, which it aimed to eradicate by 2025.  It also noted the initiatives undertaken by the Government in the areas of education and the rule of law, and was ready to share its experience on transitional justice.  Brazil said 2015 was a decisive year in Haiti’s history.  The success of the election process would be an essential step in the country’s institutional building and democratic consolidation.  All efforts to support Haiti had to be made bearing in mind the main objectives of consolidating the rule of law and fighting against poverty.  China welcomed the positive efforts on the political process, security and protecting human rights.  It noted that the situation was still complex, and the restoration of peace and reconstruction still remained a battle.  Underdevelopment was a root cause and the international community had an obligation in this respect.  Venezuela said the terrible earthquake of 2010 had had dire consequences on over 3 million people.  It called on the international community to support  Haiti in its efforts to eradicate cholera.  Solidarity and urgent measures were needed, without interference into the sovereignty and independence of Haiti.
 
United Nations Watch was alarmed about the growing incidence of prolonged pre-trial detention, which affected more than 70 per cent of all detainees in Haiti, and was concerned about extreme social, political and economic inequalities.  FIDH was concerned about continued impunity for the most serious crimes committed during the Duvalier dictatorships, military regimes and the Aristide Presidency, and called on Haiti to ensure the protection and physical integrity of human rights defenders.  International Association of Democratic Lawyers said that cholera continued to ravage Haiti, and echoed calls to respect cholera victims’ right to an effective remedy.  Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the lack of water and sanitation in schools, often exposing children to health hazards such as diarrhoea, worm infections and cholera. 


Concluding Remarks
 
Haiti, speaking as the concerned country, said that it remained committed to the creation of the rule of law.  The Independent Expert’s recommendations formed an important part of that, and Haiti also expressed a wish to build a society based on economic participation, among other factors, and wished to continue cooperating with all bodies in the United Nations system.
 
GUSTAVO GALLÓN, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, said in response to questions on overcoming challenges through international efforts that there had been a lot of cooperation over the years with Haiti and a lot of political will had been shown, but cooperation generally had been somewhat scattered.  If efforts of the involved parties could be joined together, results would be better.  Regarding prison conditions, he said that unfortunate coincidences had reduced the positive perception of the Government’s recent initiatives on that matter.  Regarding the conditions of migrants along the country’s borders with the Dominican Republic, he said it was a difficult situation for many people, which was related to both countries.  The problem of documentation and nationality was one aspect of the problem.  Legal solutions could resolve that problem, which also had economic aspects.  A policy oriented toward providing basic services was needed.  Regarding the electoral process, he said it was an uncertain situation and it was difficult to say what the Government could do.  Regarding measures to offset social inequality, he mentioned the need to measure things of a structural nature, such as tax relief measures and the right to water.  Reliable public services and housing were also of importance.  He said it was not necessary to have a reform of the Constitution.  Regarding improving the conditions of minors in prisons, he said that one problem seen very often in Haiti was a lack of time when the judges had to deal with decisions on whether or not to imprison or free someone.  He expressed a wish for Member States to continue working with Haiti to strengthen human rights in the country.  
 
Documentation
 
The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali (A/HRC/31/76).
Presentation of Report by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali
 
SULIMAN BALDO, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, referred to his recent visit to Mali’s Mopti region in February 2016, where he was able to hear many victims of human rights violations and other stakeholders while benefiting from the full cooperation of the Malian Government.  The objectives for this visit were to get an overview of the human rights situation in Mali and of the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.  His report underlined great challenges faced by Mali in the fields of governance, security, and reform of the judiciary to combat impunity.  Mr. Balbo shared his preoccupation about the intensification of attacks by violent extremist groups against civilians, the Malian armed forces and forces of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the centre and south of the country.  Increased inter-community violence, drug trafficking and other organized crime were also of concern.  This situation prevented refugees and displaced persons from safely returning.  Mr. Baldo welcomed the respect of the ceasefire by the “CMA” and “Plateforme” armed groups and the organization of a forum for peace and reconciliation in Kidal from 27 to 30 March 2016. 
 
The Independent Expert encouraged the Government to cease the opportunity of the transition period to engage in institutional reforms and to ensure the protection of civilians and of human rights.  There was a need to consolidate measures taken to combat impunity for serious crimes committed since 2012 by violent extremisms, armed groups, and Malian forces, as the vast majority of victims were still awaiting justice.  Indeed, only two cases had been filed for rapes, collective sexual violence and other grave human rights violations perpetrated in northern Mali during the crisis.  Progress had been made, however, regarding the prosecution of General Amadou Haya Sanogo and regarding the “berets rouges” case.  The Government should increase the budget allocated to the justice sector in order to speed up the handling of pending cases.  Mr. Baldo called on the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert to allow for continued assistance to Mali in the field of human rights. 
 
Statement by the Concerned Country
 
Mali, speaking as the concerned country, stated that since the twenty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council, Mali had made notable progress, notably by having signed in May and June 2015 the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, as a result of the Algiers Process.  The Agreement guaranteed a special place for human rights, notably respect for human rights, human dignity and fundamental freedoms; the setup of transitional justice mechanisms, namely the establishment of the Commission for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation; the creation of an international Commission of Inquiry tasked to make known all war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of genocide, sexual crimes and all other grave human rights violations; the reaffirmation of the imprescriptible nature of the war crimes and crimes against humanity; the non-amnesty for the war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave human rights violations; and the consolidation of the judicial power of the State in all its territory.   The Government of Mali was currently taking measures to fight impunity through a systematic opening of judiciary information in all cases of violations.
 
Interactive Dialogue
 
South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, took note with satisfaction of the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and welcomed the elaboration of a plan of action for its implementation.  The Group deplored the resurgence of violent extremism and condemned attacks against the civilian population.  European Union said that it was now the prime donor in Mali, and conducted missions to train security forces there.  The European Union was concerned that people living in areas affected by violence lacked access to services, and that the conditions for the safe return of refugees were not being fulfilled.  Estonia commended the release of some political detainees, as well as the Government’s efforts to ensure the implementation of the transitional justice mechanism, and called for the reform of the national human rights commission.  Spain considered it fundamental for the justice system to be effective, recalled the importance of accountability, and stressed that the role of women in peace efforts had to be strengthened.  Norway was deeply concerned about arbitrary arrests and unlawful killings perpetrated by security forces and recommended that Mali criminalize female genital mutilation and ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Belgium regretted the slowness of the implementation of the Peace Agreement, the lack of compliance with the ceasefire, and continued attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers, and underlined  the importance of fighting impunity with a zero tolerance policy for acts of sexual violence.           
 
United States strongly encouraged the Government of Mali to focus on protecting human rights, fostering national dialogue with all signatories of the accord, and beginning steps to reintegrate armed groups into society.  Togo stated that despite notable progress, the security situation in Mali, including the fight against impunity, violence committed by armed groups, inter-community conflicts, and the situation of refugees and displaced persons remained problematic.  France noted that the peace agreement signed in 2015 represented a historical opportunity for Mali, which was why it called on all parties to respect their obligations under the agreement.  The fight against impunity was key for achieving lasting peace.  New Zealand was deeply concerned by reports of human rights violations committed by armed groups, especially against women and children.  Strengthening the justice and security sectors, and the protection and participation of women had to be a priority.  Denmark stressed the importance of ensuring an inclusive national dialogue and reconciliation, as well as the importance of including women and vulnerable groups in that process.  Côte d’Ivoire welcomed the positive developments in Mali, but deplored terrorist attacks by armed groups, the latest one carried out on 21 March 2016.  It called on the international community to provide Mali with technical assistance to support its current efforts. 
 
Sudan commended the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali last June, as well as the holding of the international conference on the role and complementarity of the various mechanisms involved in the transitional justice process in Mali.  Gabon was pleased to see the positive changes on the ground in Mali, in particular the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.  It deplored the acts of terrorism, and subscribed to the recommendation by the Independent Expert calling on the international community to provide technical assistance for Mali.  Djibouti was pleased with the positive changes since the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement between the Government and the Coordination des mouvements de l'Azawad, and the pact for the peace platform.  It welcomed the positive dynamics and the efforts undertaken by the authorities and urged international partners to continue support for Mali.  Algeria said the report and recommendations provided an overview on the challenges and security situation in the country.  Algeria was pleased that the peace efforts had been beneficial and had fostered a new work dynamic.  It was important that efforts to bring communities together were protected from terrorist attacks.  Benin appreciated efforts by the Government and welcomed the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and the important facilitating role played by Algeria.  It reiterated its full solidarity after the dramatic  terrorist attacks and called for international assistance to eradicate them.  Ghana commended the authorities for cooperating with the Independent Expert and urged both parties to implement the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.  It remained concerned about the level of insecurity and was alarmed by alleged reports of arbitrary arrests and summary executions. 
 
Senegal welcomed the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, which was a testimony of Mali’s commitment to do more for peace and justice.  Senegal was concerned that terrorism and transnational crimes continued to affect civilians, and called for continued support from the international community.  Morocco congratulated Mali for progress accomplished in spite of security challenges, and encouraged reforms for transitional justice and the security sector.  It was crucial to support Mali in its efforts.  Chad noted with satisfaction significant progress in Mali, and the signing of a Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, but deplored continued attacks against civilians and peacekeepers.  United Kingdom said that fully implementing the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement was the best way to protect human rights and to combat terrorism, and called for justice for the victims, including for women victims of sexual violence by security forces.  Republic of Congo noted that the security situation continued to deteriorate, which had affected civilian populations and peacekeepers, and called for security and justice sector reforms, which would help accountability.  Botswana welcomed efforts to implement the peace process, including the release of a number of political prisoners, but regretted shortcomings in the investigation of cases in the armed forces, the low levels of prosecution of cases of sexual violence, and the inadequate independence and impartiality of the military tribunal.
 
Egypt was pleased at the signing of the Peace Agreement but noted that the threat of terrorism was hanging over Mali.  This situation could only be improved if there was no impunity.  It highlighted the deplorable situation of children and women and called for the establishment of a national human rights commission.  China commended the Government’s efforts on the elimination of violence against women, the safeguard of territorial integrity and regional peace.  It strongly condemned the acts of violence and pledged to work together with the international community to contribute to Mali’s economic and social development.
 
International Catholic Child Bureau said the number of child beggars begging during the day and sleeping in the streets at night had increased, and this made them vulnerable to sexual violence, paedophilia, and abuse, which were on the rise.  Small-scale gold mining also exposed children to these violations.  International Federation for Human Rights Leagues was concerned about increased violence following the signing of the Agreement,  and noted that 210 fatalities and 250 injured had been witnessed in 2015.  Arbitrary arrest and torture were prevalent, and there were no changes in the situation of victims of violence by rebel groups and Malian armed forces.  United Nations Watch said although it was pleased to note that the number of violations committed by the army had decreased, all transgressions by Mali’s state security forces had to stop now.  It called on them to immediately stop torture and mass arrests.  Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme welcomed the efforts on the Peace Agreement despite the continued criminal acts, and invited authorities to respect international human rights standards in fighting terrorism.  It inquired about the measures to fight against trafficking in ivory, light arms, and poaching.
 

Concluding Remarks
 
Mali, speaking as the concerned country in concluding remarks, thanked all delegations and the Independent Expert for their comments, and assured of its commitment to continue its efforts towards peace, security and human rights. 
 
SULIMAN BALDO, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, noted that most comments had referred to the security situation.  Drug-trafficking was being used to finance activities by extremist groups, and Mali alone could not combat this.  Therefore, there was a need for regional and international efforts, without which terrorist groups would continue their attacks in the Sahel region and in West Africa.  Turning to the issue of impunity, the Independent Expert underlined the need for more resources and more political will to ensure that accountability was effective.  He noted that the security situation had prevented judges from reaching some areas.  The best guarantee to ensure the protection of the citizens of Mali and of their fundamental rights was the vigilance of the Government and of the security forces throughout all of Mali’s territory.  The international community and MINUSMA had a responsibility to support Mali in its efforts to regain affective control over its territory. 
 
The Expert welcomed the European Union’s support to Mali’s security sector reform.  Concerns remained with respect to the situation of women and children.  The tendency of armed groups to recruit children had led to challenges regarding their rehabilitation.  Cases of rape and sexual violence could not remain pending and had to be dealt with.  Reforms had to ensure that tribunals were independent and fully functional.  Proceedings against members of the military had to be held with the accused wearing a uniform, the Expert said, noting that the military hierarchy often did not respond to such requests.  There should be a specialized judicial office in charge of terrorism, drug-trafficking and related crimes.  This was essential to ensure that the backlog of related cases was addressed. 

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