Multidimensional crises destabilise Mali, expert tells UN


The Wagner Group is helping government forces carry out raids and strikes that have killed scores of civilians, rights groups said in reports that span a period from December 2023 to March 2024. [AP Photo]

An independent expert warns that multifaceted crises facing Mali, propelled by increasing attacks from Islamist armed groups, are leading to a rapid deterioration of the country’s security situation and surging human rights violations, with potentially serious effects in the region.

“I reiterate my serious concerns by the rapid and continuing deterioration of the security situation in almost all regions of Mali that appears to be escaping from all control of the authorities,” said Alioune Tine, an independent expert on human rights in Mali.

Tine, who submitted his latest report to the U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday, said, “Increasingly we see confrontation of violent extremist groups seeking to control the country to the detriment of civilians, who are the main victims caught in the crossfire.”

The independent expert expressed serious concern about attacks on civilians and Malian defense and security forces by violent extremist groups.

Beginning with December 2023, the report documents numerous cases of killings and injuries from improvised explosive devices, kidnappings of civilians, pillaging, armed robberies, extortion and destruction of property.

The report says deadly attacks have occurred in all regions of the country, principally in Gao and Timbuktu in the north; Mopti, Bandiagara and Segou in central Mali; and Kayes and San in the south.

Tine said he was worried by the marked deterioration of the human rights situation and protection of civilians.

“According to recent information between 2022 and 2023, violations and attacks on human rights rose by almost 86%, violations and attacks on the right to life rose by almost 28%, and gender-based violence documented cases rose by 12.5%.”

Additionally, he noted that insecurity and ongoing humanitarian crises have forced many schools to close, depriving almost 500,000 children of the right to education, “which is a ticking social time bomb.”

He called on Malian authorities to step up their efforts to prosecute human rights violators and to hold them accountable for their crimes.

“While violent extremist groups have continued to be the presumed perpetrators of most human rights violations in Mali, the high number and severity of the violations attributed to the Malian defense and security forces and particularly their impunity are a major concern,” Tine said.

“Furthermore, in addition to the violations in my report, I continue to receive allegations regarding violations of human rights attributed to the army, and at times also foreign military personnel.”

That is a reference to alleged crimes committed by the Wagner Group, a Russian state-funded private military company that has been in Mali since 2022.

A report published Thursday by Human Rights Watch, says Wagner fighters have helped the Malian army carry out drone strikes in counterinsurgency operations in Mali’s central and northern regions since December, and of killing and summarily executing dozens of civilians, including children.

Mamoudou Kassogue, Mali’s minister of justice and human rights, rejected the findings of the independent expert.

“My delegation takes note of the present report, which is essentially incriminating on the basis of unverified and overly alarming information,” he said. “I would like to highlight the progress and successes recorded to date by the Malian armed forces against terrorist and extremist groups and their allies. This reality contrasts sharply with the security situation described as worrying in the report.”

Contradicting other aspects of the report, he said that his government has been actively working to put an end to impunity, noting “the systematic opening of investigations for every serious human rights violation reported.”

He said political and institutional reforms were underway, and “the fight against gender-based violence and sexual violence committed during conflicts has been addressed in the draft penal code and the code of criminal procedure.”

While reaffirming his government’s sovereign right to pursue its human rights agenda as it saw fit, the justice minister said, “Mali will continue to support the mandate of the independent expert and encourages him to pursue an objective and constructive approach.”

For his part, Tine recommended that the International Criminal Court “extend the scope of its current investigation” to establish criminal liability for the crimes that “continue to be committed in Mali.”