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Universal Periodic Review

Second session meeting highlights

15 May 2008 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Mali this afternoon, during which 43 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

Presenting the national report of Mali was MAHAFA TRAORE, Minister of Justice, Garde des Sceaux of Mali, who said that, in support of its commitment to consolidating democracy and the rule of law, the Government of Mali had always supported the idea of establishing a mechanism that would provide an account of the human rights situation in each country. The Universal Periodic Review process resembled the African Peer Review mechanism, through which Mali’s human rights evaluation took place in November 2007. It was recalled that the empire of Mali was founded in 1236 through the Kouroukan Fouga Charter which upheld human rights values, which remained today. Ever since gaining its independence in 1960 Mali’s respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms had been constant. The political will of the highest authorities of the country led to the establishment of a decree through which the groundwork for a national human rights commission was laid; that new body would be in line with the Paris Principles. The State also aimed to set up a programme to enhance public awareness about human rights. Moreover, the Government began to formulate methods of strengthening national capacities to submit national reports to human rights treaty bodies. It was also recalled that the Government was also planning a national campaign in observance of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Since 1991 all successive governments of Mali had endeavoured to strengthen political parties and public participation on human rights issues, the Minister stated. The legislative framework of Mali provided for the full respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, the Government adopted a programme to further develop the justice system. A law on the protection of the family had also been presented for adoption and various measures had been taken to combat domestic violence and child labour. In particular, national programmes to combat domestic violence and child labour were in place and were currently being implemented. The protection of women and children was one of the main components of the principles of human rights in Mali, and, as such, the Government set up a Ministry for the Protection of Women, Children and the Family. Among other measures taken, the Government set up a national strategy in 2002 on poverty reduction and on economic growth in 2007. Moreover, the State had taken several steps to provide human rights training to magistrates and justice officials, to improve prison systems and to enhance human rights education country-wide.

During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the plans to mitigate poverty and the National Plan of Action in that regard; the efforts to communicate human rights values to the public and awareness; efforts to uphold the freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of the press; the efforts to protect and promote the rights of women and children; the various programmes on the rights of the child, particular in the area of health and education; the establishment of a juvenile court as well as community-based child protection systems; the intention to establish to set up legal information centres and the provision of free legal advice; accession to core human rights treaties; the declared moratorium on the death penalty; the gains made in the health sector, in particular in combating malaria, tuberculosis, and maternal and children’s health; and the strengthening of the democratic process in Mali.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to the efforts taken to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation; steps taken to implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee to abolish degrading marriage practices; measures adopted to eliminate polygamy; steps taken to abolish the traditional practice of sororat [a man’s marriage to his deceased wife’s sister]; action taken by the High National Council for Combating HIV/AIDS to combat the pandemic; steps being taken to ensure that international obligations on freedom of expression and opinion were being recognized; and steps taken to ensure that Mali could retain its role as a press freedom leader, ensuring that all journalists in the country were able to report freely.

Additional areas raised included the challenges faced in combating poverty through the national plan and required technical assistance; concrete measures to overcome malnourishment and food insecurity affecting the population, particularly women and children; whether the State was satisfied with the level of assistance it was receiving from the international community; the status of the draft Civil Code and Criminal Code; examples and practical results of the “Espace d'Interpellation Démocratique”; the intention of the State to extend a standing invitation to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council; obstacles faced in setting up the newly conceived human rights institution; whether new human rights institution would have the capacity to receive individual complaints; the time frame for establishing legal information centres; and steps taken to improve prison conditions, especially in view of overcrowding.

Other issues pertained to measures taken to combat the phenomenon of human trafficking and problems faced therein; results achieved thus far in the are of child trafficking, in particular; the extent of the cross-border cooperation in combating human trafficking; the specific measures taken to draw up a plan to protect the rights of children especially in view of street children, child prostitution and child trafficking, in line with the recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child; the intention of the State to adopt a Family Code; steps being taken to combat child labour, as well as to address the problem of street children to facilitate their reintegration into society; and what additional action was needed on the part of the Government to eliminate forced labour.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: That Mali seek technical assistance from the international community in order for it to enhance its efforts to effectively promote and protect human rights in the country; that the request by Mali for technical assistance be taken on board by the international community; that the international community provide technical assistance to Mali to improve their eforts in the areas of literacy and to address the situation of street children; that the State pursue its efforts to combat poverty; to take concerted efforts to combat illiteracy; to accelerate efforts to increase school enrolment, in line with the Millennium Development Goals; and to ensure the timely submission of national reports to various treaty bodies.

A number of delegations recommended that the State under review adopt legislation to prohibit and criminalize female genital mutilation and other forms of violence against women; to institute an information campaign to spread awareness about harmful traditional practices against women, including female genital mutilation; that the envisaged Civil Code establish full equality between men and women and that the draft Criminal Code provide for a legal ban on female genital mutilation; and to take further measures to prevent mother-to-child HIV infection.

Other recommendations included: To enact laws on domestic violence; to step up efforts to promote and protect the rights of women and children; to step up efforts to bring national legislation in line with international standards, especially in the area of women and children’s rights; to adopt measures to combat domestic violence against women and children, including through awareness raising programmes and training for judges; to increase efforts to reform legislation which discriminated against women and children; and to enhance birth registration efforts.

Additional recommendations covered: To step up efforts to combat human trafficking; to put an end to all slavery related practices in the country; to enhance efforts to combat child labour; to combat all forms of mistreatment of children including corporal punishment; and to increase and raise awareness throughout the country against forced labour, and improve enforcement of laws that prohibited forced or compulsory labour, paying special attention to groups such as the Bellah, or black Tamacheks.

And other recommendations made covered: To improve prison conditions by reducing overcrowding and ensuring access to adequate medical treatment for prisoners; to strengthen its judicial system by eliminating all forms of corruption; to establish additional juvenile courts throughout the country; to establish centres for children in conflict with the law; to further strengthen measures to respect the freedom of expression by revising the so called “insult law” that allowed for prosecution and punishment by high fines and prison sentences of journalists in June 2007 in breach of international standards of protection of the freedom of expression; and that Mali serve as a role model for press freedom by ensuring that all journalists and media outlets, including those that may be viewed as critical to government, were free from harassment.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Cameroon, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Japan, Switzerland, China, Senegal, Germany, Canada, France, Mexico, Madagascar, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Italy, Cuba, Egypt, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Djibouti and Guatemala.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Chad, Tunisia, Morocco, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Latvia, Ireland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Turkey, Australia, the United States, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Sudan, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, the Republic of Congo, Portugal and Syria.

The 8-person delegation of Mali consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Ministry for the Protection of Women, Children and the Family, the National Commission for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Mali to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Mali are Mauritius, Brazil and Japan.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Mali can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Mali on Monday, 19 May.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work on Monday at 3:00 p.m. it will is scheduled to adopt the reports on Sri Lanka, France, Tonga, Romania and Mali.

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