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Human Rights Council discusses the situation of human rights in Mali and hears update on the human rights situation in Ukraine

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19 رجب, 1440

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

19 March 2019

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Alioune Tine, and heard an update on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.

Presenting his report, Mr. Tine underscored that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was a critical step to ensure durable peace in Mali.  However, huge challenges remained.  Violent extremism had increased in the Mopti and Ségou regions, following the removal of the Malian authorities.  The Independent Expert regretted that a bill preventing gender-based violence had not been enacted, noting that the situation of women remained very precarious as many cases of rape and sexual violence had not been heard by courts.  He called on the Government to carry out comprehensive, fair and transparent investigations into human rights violations and war crimes in order to put an end to the culture of impunity. 

Speaking as the concerned country, Mali noted that significant improvement in the field of human rights had undoubtedly begun with the signing of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.  The launching of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process had already enabled the demobilization of 16,000 fighters.  In terms of political and institutional reforms, the Government had set up the Expert Committee for Constitutional Reform on 14 January 2019, taken steps to reform the army, established sustainable development funds, and set up a working group to involve women in the peace process.  The delegation deplored that the report minimized certain improvements in the country, notably the signing of the Koro Peace Agreement in August 2018, the re-establishment of basic social services in the central region of the country, and the allocation by the Government of an additional $ 6 million to regional authorities. 

In the discussion, speakers expressed concern about the rise of intercommunal tensions and the number of civilians affected by the actions of armed groups, particularly in the central and northern areas of the country.  The improvement of the human rights situation was an indispensable condition for the peace process and speakers thus urged all parties to strictly adhere to the terms of the peace agreement, and to respect international humanitarian law.  Speakers regretted that no perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence had been brought to justice since 2014, and they called on the Government to protect women against all forms of violence by adopting an appropriate law.  Namely, they called for the swift passage of the 2017 bill on gender-based violence into law, as no similar legal protections currently existed.  Speakers attached great importance to the role of women in the peace process.  Some speakers expressed their support for the Government’s determination to emerge from the complex and violent conflict that had engulfed the country, and they welcomed its three-year plan for accelerated demobilization, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the re-establishment of basic social services. 

Speaking were European Union, Spain, Sudan, Denmark, Belgium, Czech Republic, Russian Federation, Portugal, France, Egypt, Iceland, Chad, Algeria, Senegal, China, Togo, United Kingdom, Cameroon and Australia.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Catholic Child Bureau, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced two reports on Ukraine to the Council.  First, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ latest and twenty-fifth quarterly report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, covering the period from 16 November 2018 to 15 February 2019.  Second, a thematic report of civic space and fundamental freedoms ahead of presidential, parliamentary and local elections 2019-2020.  Ms. Gilmore reminded that the armed conflict had affected more than five million people throughout Ukraine, especially those living in isolated villages on both sides of the conflict, and that it had affected directly over 1.3 million internally displaced persons.  She urged the State to put in place a policy of compensation and reparation for the victims affected, which was an essential step towards longer-term peace and reconciliation.  While the Monitoring Mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was fully operational in Government-controlled areas, it continued to face restrictions in the territory controlled by the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic,” where systemic human rights abuses persisted.   In Crimea, the Mission continued to find evidence of intimidation of human rights defenders, and the stifling of dissent by the Russian Federal Authorities.  Finally, in light of the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all involved in the electoral process to ensure they were peaceful and inclusive.

Rwanda spoke in a right of reply.

The Council will next meet on Wednesday, 20 March, at 9 a.m., to continue its interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Ukraine.  It will then hold an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, followed by the high-level interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali (A/HRC/40/77).

Presentation of the Report by the Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Mali

ALIOUNE TINE, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali, thanked the Malian Government for its cooperation with his mandate, and noted the efforts of civil society.  He explained that the purpose of his visits to Mali was to evaluate the human rights situation and the protection of civilians.  He focused particularly on the situation of victims, particularly women who had survived sexual violence, and on the question of impunity.  The Independent Expert stressed that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was a critical step to ensure durable peace in Mali.  However, setbacks in the implementation of the Peace Agreement had caused continued insecurity in the north and centre of the country.  Huge challenges remained, and although there was political will, time was of the essence.

In Mopti, whole communities lived in fear of targeted killings, abductions, and indiscriminate killings due to intercommunal tensions and extremist groups.  All perpetrators of the violence should be brought to justice.  The impact of the ongoing insecurity and violence against civilians had been enormous: the economy was paralyzed and many had been forced to flee the area.  Sadly, despite the best efforts of the Malian Government, little measurable improvement had been made to fight impunity, due to the lack of resources, but also because of the conflict between the Bamako main courts and the courts of the north.  The Independent Expert called on the Government to increase the allocation of resources for the justice system and to resolve the conflict of jurisdiction.  The International Commission of Inquiry was operational and had gone to Mali in October and November 2018.  Other non-judicial mechanisms were also functioning, including the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, and the National Human Rights Commission. 

Mr. Tine regretted that a bill preventing gender-based violence had not been enacted, and he noted that the situation of women remained very precarious, as many cases of rape and sexual violence had not been heard by courts.  Terrorist groups continued to attack the Malian and international forces.  Violent extremism had increased in the Mopti and Ségou regions following the removal of the Malian authorities.  In that regard, the Malian authorities should grant greater importance to the protection of civilians and restore the authority of the State in those areas.  The Independent Expert also called on the Government to carry out comprehensive, fair and transparent investigations into human rights violations and war crimes to put an end to the culture of impunity, and especially to violence committed by armed groups.  The Government should also actively implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and those of the treaty bodies, and it should abolish the death penalty.  It should fight against early and forced marriage and implement a law on sexual violence.  The Independent Expert recommended that armed groups cease all hostilities against civilians and respect the peace-keeping forces, permitting transport of humanitarian aid.  The international community should remain mobilized on the issue and support the Malian Government.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Mali, speaking as the concerned country, noted that significant improvement in the field of human rights had undoubtedly begun with the signing of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.  The Government was committed to maintaining the momentum.  The launching of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process had already enabled the demobilization of 16,000 fighters.  In terms of political and institutional reforms, the Government had set up the Expert Committee for Constitutional Reform on 14 January 2019, taken steps to reform the army, set up sustainable development funds, and set up a working group to involve women in the peace process.  With respect to inter-communal violence, the Government was implementing the Integrated Security Plan in central regions of the country, deploying 13,000 soldiers and creating 16 new security centres.  The Islamic attacks in the north and centre of the country had led to a worsened security situation and the violation of human rights.  The delegation underlined that the tragic events at Koulongo, as well as other crimes in the region, were the subject of judicial inquiries.  The Government had also taken measures against members of the security forces implicated in human rights abuses.  The delegation deplored that the report minimized certain improvements in the country, notably the signing of the Koro Peace Agreement in August 2018, the re-establishment of basic social services in the central region of the country, and the allocation by the Government of an additional $ 6 million to regional authorities.  As for the report’s reference to the inability of the State to fight violence in certain regions, the delegation noted that the report did not take into account all of the dimensions of violence. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Mali

European Union was particularly concerned about the rise of intercommunal tensions and the deterioration of security in certain parts of the country.  Improvement of the human rights situation was an indispensable condition for the peace process and thus the European Union urged all parties to respect international humanitarian law.  Spain regretted the continuation of human rights abuses in Mali, including the abduction of many civilians, noting that the State was unable to protect the population.  It asked the Government to speed up the re-establishment of the central authority and its functions, as well as to combat impunity.  Sudan welcomed efforts made by Mali, particularly in certain regions of the country, as well as the Government’s efforts to restore security following the attacks in certain areas.  It commended Mali for its fight against corruption and efforts aimed at reconciliation.

Denmark encouraged the efforts by the Malian Ministry of Defence to investigate reports of human rights abuses by the security forces in Boulikessi and Nantaka, although little progress was made.  What was the role of the international community in supporting Mali’s fight against impunity and what should the Government’s main priorities be to put an end to intra- and intercommunal conflicts?  Belgium was concerned about the delay in the implementation of the peace agreement, which was supposed to be the foundation of a lasting solution for the crisis.  Belgium attached great importance to the role of women in the peace process, and noted that the impact of the crisis on children was alarming.  Czech Republic welcomed the positive changes concerning the appointment of women in Mali’s Cabinet and communal councils, and the fact that the presidential elections had taken place, despite localized incidents.  What measures should the Government take as a response to the reports of violence against civilians perpetrated by the Malian defence and security forces?

Russian Federation noted the expansion of terrorist activities in Mali, adding that it was vital for all parties to implement the peace agreement signed in Algiers in June 2015.  It confirmed its ongoing willingness to contribute to the international collective efforts under the G5 Sahel.  Portugal expressed concern about the resurgence of violence in the Sahel region and believed that it was important to continue to mobilize the international community.  It encouraged the Government of Mali to continue its cooperation with the human rights mechanisms.  France was concerned about the deterioration of the security situation in Mali, stating that it was important to involve women, youth and refugees in every step of the peace building process.  France called upon the Government of Mali to strengthen its authority and the rule of law.

Interim Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Mali

ALIOUNE TINE, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali, noted that the question of gender was critical, adding that there was improvement in the representation of women in the Government.  However, additional efforts should be made.  Concerning the protection of children, Mr. Tine noted that there was an institutional void since Mali had not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Concerning impunity, the Independent Expert noted some progress as investigations were underway.  However, no concrete results or trials had been seen, particularly for the crimes perpetrated by the security forces.  The Government of Mali should send a clear message and reassure the victimized population that it would end impunity.  There was an ongoing weakness of the justice system in terms of the competency of the courts to investigate cases in the north of the country, he reminded.

Interactive Dialogue

Egypt commended the cooperation of the Government of Mali with the Human Rights Council and the Independent Expert.  It urged Mali to continue its efforts to strengthen the national accord and thus the social fabric of society.  Iceland regretted that no perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence in Mali had been brought to justice since 2014, and called on the Government of Mali to protect women against all forms of violence by adopting an appropriate law.  Chad congratulated Mali for the remarkable progress made in implementing the peace agreement, particularly the cessation of the armed conflict between the signatories.  It encouraged Mali to reinforce its cooperation as part of the G5 Sahel.

Algeria welcomed the progress made by Mali in promoting peace, and the cessation of fighting between the signatories of the Algiers Accord.  It called on all parties to work together to establish peace, and on the international community to redouble its engagement in the country.  Senegal welcomed the operationalization of the International Commission of Inquiry, provided for by the peace agreement.  It asked about the Independent Expert’s view on additional measures that could be taken to increase the effectiveness of sanctions against armed groups.  China strongly supported the Government of Mali and the territorial integrity of the country.  It appreciated the efforts and results of Mali in its promotion of human rights, especially the rights of women and children. 

Togo remained concerned about reports of grave violations of human rights, in particular in the central and northern regions of Mali.  It reiterated its support for the efforts made by the Government of Mali, and called upon all parties to strictly adhere to the terms of the peace agreement.  United Kingdom was concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Mali, and about the number of civilians affected by the actions of armed groups.  It supported the Independent Expert’s call on the Government to carry out impartial investigations into human rights violations and to address impunity.  Cameroon expressed its support for the Government of Mali and its determination to emerge from the complex and violent conflict that had engulfed the country.  It welcomed the Government’s three-year plan for accelerated demobilization, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the re-establishment of basic social services.  Australia was disturbed about the reports that human rights abuses were perpetrated against civilians by all actors in the conflict, including the Malian State forces.  It called for the swift passage of the 2017 bill on gender-based violence into law, as no similar legal protections currently existed.

International Catholic Child Bureau expressed its concern about the situation of children’s rights in Mali, where 700 schools had been closed in the northern and central regions of the country, leaving over two million children without access to education.  What were the actions that the Government could put in place to deal with those two million children?  Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme commended the recommendations and conclusions made by the Independent Expert.  Ongoing impunity for human rights violations by the Malian forces remained a source of concern so the organization asked what could be done to resolve it.  International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was deeply concerned about the failure to implement the peace agreement in Mali.  It urged the Government of Mali to pass a law outlawing gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.

Concluding Remarks

ALIOUNE TINE, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali, noted that the major challenge in Mali was to strengthen the authority of the State, without which there would be no rule of law.  The Human Rights Council should focus on how to help Mali to meet its obligations and ensure the protection of civilians.  The conflict between communities was grave and the increased number of troops did not provide more security.  There was a need to involve civilians and civil society in the peace process because tensions would not disappear through the use of weapons.  There were encouraging political steps, but from a cultural, social and economic point of view, misunderstandings and tensions had become entrenched.  Impunity was a cancer spreading like gangrene throughout institutions in Mali.  The Government was receptive to recommendations, but the justice system was inadequate in its dealing with impunity.  The international community should look at solutions to those substantive issues.  In the north, there were virtually no schools left open; the rights of children were a pressing and sad problem.  Children were victims of unexploded ordinances as they played with them and because they used to carry and detonate them.  In 2018, progress had been made with respect to the sanctions regime; assets could be frozen and freedom of movement could be limited, and those measures should be used more.  The priority area was the containment of the intercommunity tensions so that the violence did not spread to other countries in the area.  The Economic Community of West African States should do more to provide a comprehensive and appropriate response to the intercommunity conflicts.  There were armed groups operating, organized crime, and cross border transnational crime.  People and goods were smuggled across borders.  Although Mali was committed to combatting corruption, the scale of the phenomenon was challenging, Mr. Tine concluded. 

Presentation of Reports on Ukraine by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

KATE GILMORE, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced two reports.  First, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ latest and twenty-fifth quarterly report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, covering the period from 16 November 2018 to 15 February 2019.  Second, a thematic report of civic space and fundamental freedoms ahead of presidential, parliamentary and local elections 2019-2020, which covered the period from 1 January 2018 to 15 January 2019, and focused on the territory where the Government exercised effective control and where the aforementioned elections would be carried out.  Ms. Gilmore acknowledged the constructive engagement of the Government of Ukraine, but also stressed the importance of and the need for engagement with civil society.  Following the Maidan events of February 2014, the Government had invited the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a monitoring mission in Ukraine.  It was tragic that five years later the armed conflict continued. 

The twenty-fifth human rights monitoring report covering the period from mid-November 2018 to mid-February 2019 recorded the lowest rates of civilian casualties, with two civilian deaths recorded.  In 2018, the total civilian casualties reached 279.  However, the Deputy High Commissioner regretted that since 15 February 2019, the civilian casualties had increased as a result of a result of shelling, fire from small arms and light weapons, as well as mine-related incidents.  She called on all parties to uphold the ceasefire.  The armed conflict had affected more than five million people throughout Ukraine, especially those living in isolated villages on both sides of the conflict, and it had impacted directly on the over 1.3 million internally displaced persons.  Ms. Gilmore urged the State to put in place a policy of compensation and reparation for the victims affected, which was an essential step towards longer-term peace and reconciliation.  She expressed concern at the dangerous and sometimes humiliating procedures people must go through to cross the contact line between the two communities, and since the beginning of this year at least 11 people had lost their lives making this crossing.

While the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Monitoring Mission was fully operational in Government-controlled areas, it continued to face restrictions to its operations in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic”, territories where systemic human rights abuses persisted.  People were prevented from expressing opinions freely, from peacefully assembling, or from practicing their chosen religion.  In the past three months, the Mission had documented 315 human rights violations, affecting 202 victims, representing an increase in the reporting compared with the previous period.  The twenty-fifth quarterly report documented 172 human rights violations involving unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture and ill treatment by both sides.  It also documented 89 violations of the right to a fair trial, including the use of pressure to obtain confessions.  In Crimea, the Mission continued to find evidence of intimidation of human rights defenders, and the stifling of dissent by the Russian Federal Authorities.  In less than two weeks, Ukrainians would elect their president.  Ms. Gilmore urged all involved in the electoral process to ensure they were peaceful and inclusive.  Her team had also published a report on civic space and fundamental freedoms in Ukraine, which documented 164 violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and of freedom of religion in the period from 1 January 2018 to 15 January 2019.  Impunity prevailed in most of the cases documented, and the report had set out recommendations for all relevant parties to follow.

Right of Reply

Rwanda, in a right of reply, responded to a statement made by a non-governmental organization during the enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Rwanda noted that it did not want to engage in baseless conspiracy theories, but it still clarified that it did not occupy any part of the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Rwanda encouraged the non-governmental organization to focus its energy to work with the Government and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to bring peace and stability.

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