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Weak state protection of civilians threatens Mali’s existence - UN expert

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BAMAKO (6 August 2021) - Violence is spreading so rapidly across Mali that it threatens the very survival of the state, the United Nations expert on human rights in the country said at the end of an 11-day official visit where he heard about an increase in extrajudicial executions, other killings, kidnappings of civilians and gang rapes of women.

"I am very concerned that the serious and continuing deterioration of the security situation has exceeded a critical threshold," said Alioune Tine, UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Mali.

"A weakened and powerless state is having difficulty assuming its proper role of protecting civilian populations in the face of armed groups that are swarming throughout the country," he said. "It is disturbing that civilian populations are also suffering violence from the Malian defense and security forces (FDSM) that are supposed to protect them." 

Tine said that some people he met during his visit expressed serious doubts about the political will of the Malian authorities to take concrete steps to guarantee the security of the civilian population, especially in the regions most affected by the crisis and conflicts.

"This absolutely must change," he said. "It takes a national leap of faith and an unwavering commitment by the Malian authorities, with the active support of their partners, to restore the authority of the state and ensure the protection of civilian populations."

Tine expressed grave concern about the rapid and continuing deterioration of the security situation created by the failure of state institutions and resulting in all-out attacks on civilian populations by armed groups such as Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and others that are consolidating their control over areas in the north and center of the country. They are also expanding into the southern regions of Mali, and communal violence is increasing in central Mali.

Civilians in the north (Gao, Menaka, and Timbuktu regions), the center (Bandiagara, Douentza, Mopti, and Segou regions), and the south (Koutiala, San, and Sikasso regions) suffer violations of their basic human rights and are even killed. The deteriorating respect for human rights is taking place in a context of widespread impunity for the perpetrators of these violations and abuses.

The UN peacekeeping force, MINUSMA, documented at least 43 extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions committed by the Malian Defense and Security Forces (MDSF) between 1 April and 30 June 2021.

The increase in human rights abuses by militias and armed community groups is even worse, with the total in the first seven months of this year, 258 cases, representing already 88 percent of the number reported in all of 2020.

Abductions are also up dramatically. In just the first six months of this year, MINUSMA documented 435  abductions – five  times as many as in all of 2019.

The abductors are primarily community-based armed groups and militias in central Mali, including the Da Na Ambassagou militia, but also armed groups such as Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and other similar groups. 

Gang rapes and other violence against women is on the rise, as are attacks on so-called slaves, an issue the independent expert highlighted last month.

In meetings with Malian authorities, Tine expressed his serious concerns about the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation. Malian authorities made commitments to take concrete steps to address his concerns and improve the human rights situation.

"I therefore invite the Malian authorities to live up to their commitments," said Tine. "This will help to reassure and restore the confidence in state institutions by the civilian population and many interlocutors. The authorities must give top priority to addressing the troubling issue of impunity in Mali.

Tine met with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Minister of Defense and Veterans, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the Minister of State Refoundation in charge of relations with institutions, the Minister of Reconciliation, Peace and National Cohesion in charge of the Agreement for Peace and National Reconciliation, the President of the National Human Rights Commission, and judicial authorities.

"I was able to meet with former President Bah N'Daw and former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane who are still under house arrest,” Tine said. “I discussed with the Malian authorities the unlawful nature of this situation and the need to end it as soon as possible. We have taken note of the concrete steps taken by the Malian authorities towards their imminent release.”

The Expert also discussed with the authorities the death in detention in conditions not yet clarified of the individual arrested for the attempted assassination of the President of the Transition, Colonel Assimi Goïta.

"I ask the Malian authorities to open a thorough, rapid and impartial investigation in accordance with Mali's relevant international human rights obligations,” he said.

He also met with civil society organizations, including people with albinism and people living with disabilities, civil society organizations and victims' associations, victims of descent-based slavery and associations fighting against this practice, non-governmental organizations, representatives of the diplomatic corps, UN agencies, funds and programs, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of MINUSMA.

He also visited the Gao region, where he met with local authorities, women's associations and UN agencies.

At the end of his visit, Tine issued a statement and will submit a full report to the Human Rights Council in March 2022

ENDS

Mr. Alioune Tine (Senegal) took office as independent expert on the human rights situation in Malion 1 May 2018. The mandate of independent expert was renewed by the Human Rights Council on 24 March 2021 for a period of one year to assist the Government of Mali in its actions to promote and protect human rights and in the implementation of the recommendations made in Council resolutions. Mr. Tine was a founding member and President of the African Meeting for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO) and Coordinator of the Forum of African NGOs at the World Conference against Racism in 2000. Between 2014 and 2018, Mr. Tine was Amnesty International's Regional Director for West and Central Africa. He has published many articles and studies on literature and human rights.

The independent experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN human rights country page - Mali

For additional information and media inquiries, please contact: Jean-Claude Misenga (+41 22 917 9059 / jmisenga@ohchr.org ).

In Bamako (during the visit):  Guillaume Ngefa (+223 94950226 / ngefa@un.org).

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org), Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 7578 / jlaurence@ohchr.org) and Kitty McKinsey (kmckinsey@ohchr.org).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter@UN_SPExperts

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