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Mali; United Nations: Rights Expert Calls for Stronger Judicial System

(Mar. 11, 2014) Suliman Baldo, the United Nations independent expert on human rights in Mali, recently expressed his concern that crimes committed both by rebel groups and national forces during the 2012 conflict in the northern part of the country were not being effectively prosecuted. He issued this assessment in a press release, following his February 17-26, 2014, visit to the country. (Press Release, United Nations, UN Expert Urges Support for Strengthening Mali’s Justice System (Feb. 28, 2014), UN NEWS CENTRE; Bradley McAllister, UN Rights Expert Urges Mali to Strengthen Judicial System, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Mar. 2, 2014).)

There have been a few first steps taken to bring those involved in the 2012 fighting to justice. General Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led the March 2012 coup that preceded the civil conflict, was arrested in November 2013 and charged with complicity in murder, assassination, and kidnapping. The Tuareg rebels who led the rebellion have in turn called on the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes they allege were committed by government forces. (McAllister, supra.)

Baldo said that while Mali has taken steps to fight impunity for crimes by the former military rulers in the southern part of the country, the justice system has had difficulty in prosecuting those who committed crimes in the north, whether they were members of the armed groups that occupied the territory or of the national military. In addition to the lack of punishment for some abuses, members of the rebel groups and those accused of helping them are being held longer than permitted by law before trial due to the lack of resources to investigate their alleged crimes. (Press Release, supra.)

Baldo called on the international community to provide assistance to Mali in handling these cases, but also placed responsibility in the hands of the Malian authorities, stating, “[i]t 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 also proposed the creation of a special investigation unit and stressed the need to send judges and police officers to the areas in which the crimes occurred. (Id.)

While in Mali, Baldo met with a group of government officials: the Minister of Justice, Minister of National Reconciliation and Development of the Northern Region, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Minister of Labor and Social and Humanitarian Affairs, the Minister of National Education, the Attorney General, the army General Staff, and the President of the National Commission on Human Rights. In addition, he held meetings with representatives of civil society, religious leaders, and diplomats. He inspected detention centers in the capital, Bamako, and visited victims’ associations in the city of Goa in the northern part of Mali, as well as associations of refugees now in neighboring Mauritania. (Id.)

Baldo is scheduled to submit a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council on March 26, 2014, on the human rights situation in Mali. (Id.)