Mali told the UN that advances it had made in the field of human rights were being undermined by the conflict raging across the country.
“Mali is ... confronted with a conflict situation that is (impacting) and permanently endangering the advances made,” Malian Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday.
“Assistance is needed to solidify these advances,” he said, calling for solidarity from the international community.
With help from French and West African troops, the Malian military is fighting Islamist rebels who have seized more than half the country and enforced an extreme form of Islamic law in northern towns.
Coulibaly made his remarks as his country underwent a review of its human rights situation before the rights council in Geneva, which had been scheduled before the most recent fighting began.
While he stressed that the current conflict was complicating Mali’s efforts, he insisted the country had made strides in a number of areas, including on empowering women, combating child labour, reforming the judicial system and towards abolishing the death penalty.
Many of the 70 countries that took part in the dialogue after Coulibaly’s presentation, meanwhile, decried widespread abuses in Mali and called on Bamako to hold all perpetrators of rights violations accountable.
France, which could send up to 4,000 troops to Mali, called on the Malian government to “guarantee that it will fight against impunity ... especially by continuing to cooperate with the International Criminal Court,” the French ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Nicolas Niemtchinow said.
Paris also voiced concern about the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence against women and the treatment of prisoners in the country, and urged Bamako to prevent “acts of retaliation” and to “disarm the militias.”
The US delegation meanwhile stressed that “a strong, democratically elected government viewed as legitimate by the Malian people is critical to ensure credible political processes and negotiations with non-extremist groups in the north.”
It also lamented that the interim government in Bamako, which came into power following a coup by mutinying soldiers last March, had done little to hold the putschists accountable, and decried widespread abuses by the Islamist rebels in the north.
Algeria, Mali’s neighbour to the north, also called on the country to hold “free, fair and transparent elections by adopting an approach including the entire Malian population.”