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Universal Periodic Review of Mali: Facing human rights violations in time of crisis

January 28, 2013

During the current session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), it was Mali’s turn on Tuesday to stand in front of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to engage in a review of its entire human rights situation.

In this case, the context in the country is very specific owing to the current political, institutional and humanitarian crisis Mali has been facing for almost a year now.

Respect of human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict

Photo of a session of the Human Rights CouncilAs now widely known, France and several African armies are currently leading military actions in Mali with the objective of restoring its security and sovereignty. Indeed, after the coup d’Etat perpetrated by mutinying Malian soldiers in March 2012, the situation quickly deteriorated to turn into a multifaceted crisis. Rebel groups then seized power in the northern region of Mali, with the intent to impose radical Islamism on the population.

Recent reports alleged that since the beginning of this political crisis, a high number of human rights violations were committed not only by the fundamentalist groups in the North of Mali, but also by the Malian police forces in the rest of the country.

WILPF therefore congratulates Mali for its participation in the UPR in spite of the crisis they are facing. In doing so, Mali has shown a commitment to the international accountability for human rights.

However, we regret that during the current conflict, the government of Mali has neglected its efforts to protect and promote human rights.

The UPR working group strongly noted on the recent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by terrorist groups and the Malian forces, such as torture, harassment, sexual abuse, corruption, extrajudicial executions, kidnapping and arbitrary arrests; they recommended Mali to lead independent and impartial investigations, and to prosecute those accountable for these crimes, as a means of protecting human rights.

In this critical period for Mali, the HRC recommended that the Malian government defend the refugees and displaced populations, and implement the necessary fittings for their protection.

Protection of women and children in spite of the conflict

Apart from the above-mentioned violations committed in time of conflict, Mali should end the following major human rights violations:

–       female genital mutilation (FGM)

–       child labour and child trafficking

–       death penalty

Malick Coulibaly, Minister of Justice, represented Mali during the review. He acknowledged that owing to the current events in the North and the absence of a stable government, the transitional authorities have very limited possibilities to implement the different recommendations made at the UPR. The Malian institutions are currently going through a period of constitutional normalization, and he argued that this prevents them from taking concrete steps for the protection and promotion of human rights.

As Mali was urged to implement efficient legislation against any form of violence against women, in particular against female genital mutilations, in conformity with Mali’s international obligations, the Malian delegation emphasized that the eradication of female genital mutilation was above all a matter of mentality rather than a matter of law. According to the Minister of Justice, public awareness through the National Programme for the Fight against Excision is more efficient than any kind of legislation.

Regarding women’s rights in general, the new Code of Persons and of Family, which was supposed to strengthen the legal rights of women and to condemn discriminations against them, actually formalizes men’s supremacy and worsens gender-based discrimination, constituting an appalling regression for women’s rights.

Even though the Malian Constitution guarantees the supremacy of international treaties over this code, the law states that a woman must obey her husband, the figure of the male as head of the family persists and the legal age for marriage is 16 for girls. These constitute a complete and scandalous contradiction between the domestic laws and the international commitments Mali has made.

The instances of children being recruited as soldiers by rebel groups is an issue of major concern for all. The government was urged to combat this recruitment as well as to reinforce children’s protection against violence and eradicate child labour and prostitution.

We join the HRC in wishing Mali reaches a solution to this multifaceted crisis as soon as possible, and hopes for the organisation at the earliest opportunity of free, fair, transparent and democratic elections in order to re-establish the security of the people of Mali.

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