The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2015/250) issued on 16 April 2018.

The precarious security situation in the northern and central regions of Mali, where threats continue to be directed against peacekeepers, national security forces and humanitarian actors, impedes efforts to investigate conflict-related sexual violence. Many survivors suffer in silence, due to the scarcity of services and the lack of trust in national institutions. Cultural taboos, compounded by the fear of stigmatization and reprisal, also perpetuate underreporting. Many women and girls remain traumatized by the Islamist occupation of 2012–2013, during which rape and forced marriage were rampant. Impunity prevails in the northern regions, where there is no functioning justice system. In addition to its internal security challenges, Mali has become a transit point for migratory flows, with numerous violations reported along migration routes, as well as in mining zones, where women have been abused by smugglers and forced into prostitution.

In 2017, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) documented 16 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, most of which concerned women and girls traveling by public transportation on the axis connecting key regions of Gao, Timbuktu, Ménaka, Mopti and the Niger border. Of those cases, eight were committed by unidentified armed men, one by a member of the Haut Conseil pour l’unité de l’Azawad (HCUA), three by elements of the Coordination des mouvements et fronts patriotiques de résistance II, two by elements of the Mouvement pour le salut de l’Azawad and two by members of the Malian Defence and Security Forces. The cases involved 11 incidents of rape and five incidents of gang rape in Gao, Timbuktu, Ménaka and Mopti. Two of the victims were members of the Bella ethnic minority group, adding to the 10 cases of sexual violence reported against Bella women in 2016 that remain unaddressed. On 7 July in Kidal, the Coordination des mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA) issued a unilateral communiqué on preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence, endorsed by the movements that compose CMA, including HCUA, the Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad and the Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad, the latter of which is listed in the annex to the present report. The Platform coalition of armed groups continued to implement the provisions of its 2016 communiqué on preventing and punishing perpetrators of sexual violence.

The United Nations continued to support the development of a national strategy to combat gender-based violence through the provision of technical and financial support to the Government. MINUSMA also facilitated the economic reintegration of survivors of sexual violence through quick-impact projects for income generation. Prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence was reflected in the framework for the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel, and area s of cooperation were identified, such as training members of the Joint Force on referral pathways for survivors, including those released from terrorist and trafficking networks. As part of ongoing trust-building measures between women and the members of the justice sector, projects supported by the Peacebuilding Fund in Gao and Timbuktu have helped to increase the rate of reporting gender-based violence to the police from 1 per cent in 2014 to almost 14 per cent in 2017. In recent years, MINUSMA has supported a coalition of non-governmental organizations in bringing to court 120 cases of conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated during the Islamist occupation and the Tuareg rebellion in the north.

Recommendation

I urge the Government to sign the joint communiqué with my Special Representative, which has been pending since April 2016, in order to enable a more structured response to conflict-related sexual violence, to adopt legislation prohibiting all forms of sexual violence, to provide access to justice and services for survivors and to expand socioeconomic reintegration support. I call upon the Government and the donor community to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of cases of sexual violence.