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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.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).