Human Rights Watch welcomes the willingness of the government of Mali to renew the Independent Expert’s mandate. The implementation of the Expert’s recommendations would demonstrate the government’s commitment to improve the country’s human rights situation as it recovers from a brutal armed conflict. And by addressing the weak rule of law in the country, the government would also be tackling a key factor that underpinned the country’s instability.
We agree with the Independent Expert’s conclusions on the importance of strengthening Malis’ judicial system, which is characterized by striking deficiencies; on ensuring prosecution for serious crimes committed by all sides during the recent armed conflict; and on the benefits of a credible, representative truth-telling and justice commission.
Human Rights Watch welcomes the commitment the government has made to address impunity, and is encouraged by progress demonstrated in the courageous and independent work of the national judiciary in investigating the 2012 enforced disappearances and torture of at least 21 elite “Red Berets” by men loyal to coup leader Amadou Sanogo. We are also encouraged by the government’s continued cooperation with the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
However, we are concerned about the lack of progress in investigating the numerous other victims of abuses by all warring factions. The laudable progress in the “Red Beret” case should be the first of many cases competently and impartially investigated and should mark the beginning of wider accountability efforts.
Human Rights Watch has spoken with numerous families of victims trying to ensure justice for the loss or injury of their loved ones. To date over 30 families have filed complaints and missing persons’ reports with the police and gendarmerie and written letters to prosecutors detailing crimes. Unfortunately, almost none of their cases have been investigated, and none of those allegedly responsible brought to justice.
We urge the government to develop a strategy to ensure the investigation and prosecution of those from all sides in the conflict who are responsible for serious crimes; to address, with international donor assistance, the deficiencies in its criminal justice system;and to oppose any amnesty for serious crimes in any future negotiated settlement among the warring factions.
We recognize that the absence until very recently of judicial authorities in the north and the continuing insecurity has hampered investigation efforts. However, many of the crimes in question were committed within areas in which the judicial authorities never left.
Ensuring investigations and trials for crimes committed by all sides that meet international standards is crucial for promoting respect for human rights, building strong rule of law institutions, and building a durable peace.