The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2015/203) issued on 23 March 2015.
The prevailing insecurity in the north, combined with factors such as fear of reprisals and lack of protection for victims, witnesses and the organizations that support them, has severely limited reporting of sexual violence in Mali. At the same time, the increasing trend of attacks on humanitarian workers (23 incidents were reported in 2014) has further hampered the response. Moreover, in recent months, armed groups have splintered and multiplied, making it difficult to identify clear chains of command for the purpose of engaging in a dialogue on protection.
In 2014, the United Nations recorded 90 allegations of conflict-related sexual violence, 69 rapes and 21 sexual assaults. All these cases occurred in the regions of Gao and Timbuktu and all involved female victims, 52 women and 38 girls. Twelve of the incidents have been attributed to the Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad and 5 to the Forces armées maliennes, with the remaining cases linked to armed elements that could not be identified. Allegations of sexual violence spiked following the deployment of the Groupe tactique inter armé “Débo”, a new contingent of the armed forces, in Timbuktu in September 2014. Displaced women face an elevated risk of sexual violence owing to the lack of community-based protection mechanisms and the proximity of armed groups to population centres, making it particularly dangerous to access isolated water points and forests.
Progress in the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence has been limited owing to death threats against local monitors and the limited capacity of national justice institutions. In November 2014, non-governmental organizations filed 104 criminal complaints against armed groups for incidents of conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls that took place in 2012 and 2013. These incidents were filed as war crimes and crimes against humanity, and have been attributed to members of the Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad, Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. The United Nations reports that 25 children were born as a result of conflict-related rapes that took place in 2012 and 2013, 17 in Gao, 4 in Mopti and 4 in Bamako. Malian law prohibits abortion and international adoption, which limits the coping mechanisms and options available to survivors. In the majority of cases, these women are socially stigmatized and abandoned by their husbands and families, leaving them in extreme poverty. Their children often face abandonment and death.
The draft agreement on peace and reconciliation in Mali includes language on conflict-related sexual violence in connection with justice and reconciliation, but fails to address the issue comprehensively. Implementation of the confidence-building measures contained in the preliminary peace agreement signed in Ouagadougou in June regrettably resulted in the release of several individuals linked to human rights violations, including conflict-related sexual violence. Following their release, civil society actors and survivors expressed fear of reprisals and a loss of confidence in the administration of justice. In Timbuktu, staff of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) interviewed victims of forced marriage to fighters affiliated with Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine, which occurred when these groups occupied the city in 2012. One of the prisoners granted early release, Houka Ag Alhousseini, officiated at the forced marriages.
The Government and the United Nations country team have worked together to train the national army, the police and the gendarmerie on conflict-related sexual violence. In September 2014, the Joint Commander in Timbuktu of the Mouvement arab de l’Azawad-Mouvement national de liberation de l’Azawad signed a military directive that calls, inter alia, for the elimination of sexual violence against children. The Malian Police Service has established a national hotline. Strategic advocacy by the gender-based violence subcluster to raise public awareness included 48,000 radio broadcasts in all local languages, reaching 29,060 Malians. The United Nations system has also adapted the early warning indicators of conflict-related sexual violence to the local context to enhance prevention. The United Nations country team has supported health-care providers to improve the clinical management of rape. In Mopti and Bamako, “safe spaces” have been established for women and girls, including those forcibly displaced from the north.
I urge the Government of Mali, with support from United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, to develop a comprehensive national strategy to combat sexual and gender-based violence and to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers so that services can reach remote areas. I further call on all parties to ensure that conflict-related sexual violence is addressed in the inter-Malian dialogue and that perpetrators of sexual violence do not benefit from amnesty or early release.