UN expert urges support for strengthening Mali’s justice system

Chadian UN peacekeepers patrol a MINUSMA check point in Tessalit, North of Mali. Photo MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

28 February 2014 – Calling on the United Nations and the wider international community to help the Government of Mali strengthen its judicial system, the UN independent expert on human rights in the country expressed concern today at the difficulties facing Malian justice in the prosecution of serious crimes committed in during the violence that engulfed the north in 2012.

Wrapping up a recent visit to Mali, Suliman Baldo said that despite the authorities’ laudable efforts in the fight against impunity for the crimes alleged against former military junta in the south, the justice system faced enormous difficulties in prosecuting alleged perpetrators of serious crimes committed by armed groups during the occupation of the north and abuses committed by some elements of the national forces during efforts to liberate that part of the territory.

The Government is seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012, including a military coup d’état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical Islamists.

The UN Security Council last April authorized the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to assist the authorities in their efforts, with support from the French security mission in Mali, known as Serval.

Having visited the country from 17 to 26 February, Mr. Baldo explained in a press release from the UN human rights office (OHCHR) that the distance between the courts in charge of the files on the north, based in the capital, Bamako, and victims and the places where the crimes were committed “is a major obstacle to the Malian justice.”

“Many crimes remain unpunished therefore,” he said, adding that members of armed groups or suspected collaborators arrested in the north of the country are being held for long periods beyond the statutory period without trial, because of the lack of resources for the organization of investigations into the incidents that took place in the north.

Mr. Baldo encouraged the Malian authorities to formulate a strategy to expedite investigations in the north by setting up a special investigation unit and mobile counseling centers for witnesses and victims.

“It is up to the Government to develop a vision to cope with the failure of Malian justice and mobilize technical partners for logistics, security and financial support,” he said, adding that it is also vital that judges and police officers be deployed in places where the crimes were committed.

The expert called MINUSMA and the international community to assist the Government in supporting judges and their teams so that they can effectively conduct investigations on the ground, providing them with the materials, logistics and substantial resources and the protection necessary to visit the sites and locations where products are possible violations.

During his ten-day visit , Mr. Baldo met with senior Government representatives , including the Minister of Justice , Minister of national reconciliation and development of the northern regions , the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation international , the Minister of Labour and Social and humanitarian Affairs, and the Minister of National Education.

The independent expert also met with the Attorney General, the General Staff of the armies of Mali, the President of the National Commission on Human Rights, representatives of civil society, religious leaders, the diplomatic corps and agencies of the United Nations.

He also visited detention centers in Bamako and visited Gao in the north, and Mauritania to meet victims' associations and north of Malian refugees.

The Independent Expert will present a report on the situation of human rights in Mali 26 March 2014 the UN Human Rights Council.

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