Mali: UN alarmed at release of human rights abusers; warns de facto amnesty contrary to international law

Abandoned cells in the main prison in Gao, north of Bamako, Mali. Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

11 August 2015 – The United Nations human rights office expressed deep concern over the reported release of detainees in Mali suspected of involvement in, or formally charged with, serious abuses, including war crimes, terrorist acts and gross human rights violations.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said: “We understand that a number of those released on 16 July 2015 were implicated in such crimes and are concerned that further releases may be imminent.”

Any measure that would, de facto, amount to amnesty would be contrary to international law, and in violation of the commitment by the parties to the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.

“We emphasize the critical importance of the fight against impunity and the need to investigate and prosecute all gross violations of human rights, to ensure accountability,” she underscored.

Amnesties that prevent the prosecution of individuals who may be legally responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights are inconsistent with States’ obligations under various sources of international law.

“We urge the Government to ensure that any releases made in the context of confidence-building measures are in full conformity with international law, and to take all measures to ensure the investigation and prosecution of all serious crimes under international law,” the spokesperson continued.

“The judicial authorities in Mali should pursue the investigation and prosecution of all alleged perpetrators of war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights, and ensure that the rights of victims to an effective remedy are promoted and protected.”

OHCHR also condemned the atrocious attacks on civilians in the Byblos hotel in Sevaré in Central Mali between Friday and Saturday last week.

“Such attacks, which appear designed to provoke a state of terror and intimidate, are in violation of national and international law. We call on the international community and neighbouring states to give all possible assistance to Mali in its ongoing efforts to restore peace, security and the full respect for human rights,” Ms. Shamdasani concluded.

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