A consensual roadmap for the truth, justice and reconciliation process in Mali

Press release
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On 6 and 7 November 2014, FIDH and AMDH held an international seminar in Bamako on transitional justice and national reconciliation in Mali, opened by Prime Minister Moussa Mara. The 230 participants adopted a roadmap for the reconciliation process in Mali which rejects any form of amnesty for past crimes.

The participants specifically requested that a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR) be composed of qualified and independent persons who will be able to listen to victims of all forms of political repression and grave violations of human rights perpetrated by governments and armed groups and can recommend reparation measures for the victims as well as extensive state reforms that include the introduction of guarantees of non-recurrence of human rights violations and respect for the rights of all citizens, without exception. Additionally, the participants stated that impunity should no longer be tolerated and international and national justice must be able to do its work without political interference or intervention. While negotiations are currently being conducted in Algiers between certain armed groups and the government of Mali, these measures need to be accepted by the parties and implemented by the government and the CVJR, if true lasting peace that is beneficial to all the people is to be achieved.

The parties negotiating in Algiers must listen to the call for truth and justice from all of the Malian people who massively reject amnesty for past and present crimes, declared Souhayr Belhassen, Honorary FIDH President, at the close of the Bamako seminar (see her statement [in French]).

230 participants attended this seminar including representatives of the Malian civil society, political parties, national political and judicial authorities, security and defence forces, religious and traditional leaders, as well as victims of human rights violations, journalists and academics from all over the country. A dozen national and international experts contributed to the participants’ discussion, in particular by relating similar experiences of national reconciliation in Togo, Morocco, Tunisia, Burundi, Guinea and even South Africa and Ghana.

A need for truth about past and present crimes

The need for truth seems to be fundamental to a national history characterized by divergent viewpoints and marked by State violence, rebellion and repression, which led to the commission of grave human rights violations. The way these violations were handled politically enabled the perpetrators of these crimes to enjoy impunity and, in some cases, promotions, leading to more violations and recurrent periods of instability. The 2012 crisis marked by the Tuareg rebellion, the jihadist occupation of the northern part of the country and a military coup d’état reflect this poor governance and impunity.

In his opening speech, Prime Minister Moussa Mara emphasized that “the fight against impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes in conjunction with the implementation of a mechanism for the search for truth and national reconciliation should allow for the venting of animosities and feelings of revenge and to the assembling of communities around a Mali that is united in its diversity”.

The government therefore established a Ministry of Reconciliation and, on 15 January 2014, a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR) with a mandate to listen to the victims of human rights violations perpetrated between 1960 and 2013, to investigate those violations and to recommend measures for reparation and the non-recurrence of the crimes. Since the 15 CVJR members have not yet been appointed, participants underscored the necessity of having them chosen for their competence, independence, impartiality and fairness. They excluded members of the armed forces, security services, armed groups, and political leaders. It was often said that the CVJR should be “a reflection of Mali”, the experts and participants pointed out that the principal criteria for the selection of commission members should be competence and independence. Lastly, the participants emphasized that the CVJR should be composed of an equal number of men and women and that a gender sub-commission should be established, especially considering the prevalence of sexual crimes in times of conflicts. The participants also underscored the necessity for the CVJR to remain independent of the executive branch, in order to guarantee the impartiality of the Commission and its members, and thus enable the victims to come to them without mistrust.

Fighting impunity is essential to reconciliation

Consultations with various sectors of the society indicated that the fight against impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes was a priority for transitional justice and national reconciliation which should not be compromised by any amnesties and any political agreements. The participants unanimously supported the response of both international and national justice in dealing with crimes within their jurisdiction committed in Mali. The participants did not agree with the “pardon against cooperation” formula for perpetrators of more minor offences. Instead, they reasserted the inalienable right of victims to refer to reformed and more effective judicial institutions and to have their complaints examined and justice done.

When justice is no longer possible because the suspect has died or the evidence has been lost, the fight against impunity must be channelled through a mechanism such as the CVJR for transitional justice or justice in times of transition. The participants stressed the major role that the victims should play in CVJR actions so that they can file their complaint without fear of punishment; be assured that their file will be studied; state their case with the assistance of a psychologist when appropriate; testify publicly if they so desire or in private if they make a request to that effect; be accompanied by members of the civil society, and receive individual, collective, community and/or symbolic compensation for the harm they suffered.

There was unanimous agreement on the need for justice for the victims of present-day as well as past crimes. All the people consulted during the seminar felt that national reconciliation must pass through the wheels of justice at both the international and the national level, said Moctar Mariko, AMDH President and lawyer for victims before national courts. The people will not accept amnesty and impunity. The negotiators in Algiers must listen to them”, he added.

Guaranteeing non-recurrence of the most serious crimes

Fifty years of poor governance has led to human rights violations and conflicts in our country”, said one of the participants during the debates. Many others agreed which inspired the group to think about the third phase of the transitional justice process: recommendations from CVJR and the implementation of its recommendations to transform the State and the society in an effort to curtail the causes of the conflicts and the massive violations of human rights. Besides ensuring reparation for the victims, the work of the CVJR should identify and propose the institutional reforms needed to put an end to the poor governance, the human rights violations, and the conflicts. This involves reforms to the judiciary, the territorial administration and the security sector, the strengthening of the instruments of democracy but it also involves strengthening schools’ curriculum, the abolition of slavery including all forms of modern slavery, reforms to the family code and guarantees that women will be represented on the political stage, the establishment of national archives as stewards of the country’s memory and historical truth, and the introduction of institutional checks and balances that can guarantee democratic life and the economic development of the country. The effectiveness and the implementation of these reforms are not only challenging for the present and future governments and political leaders, they are also prerequisites to a successful national reconciliation for all the people of Mali, without discrimination or stigmatisation.

As part of a joint programme called “Mobilising the civil society to respond to the human rights crisis in Mali”, FIDH and AMDH launched a series of actions to look for ways to respond to the crimes and the political stakes of the conflict and the political crisis that struck Mali in 2012. Actions include documenting human rights violations, providing legal support for the victims, advocating to the national authorities and the international community, etc.

Since 26 and 28 November 2013, FIDH and AMDH have been assisting victims of crimes perpetrated by the military junta under Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo in the cases of the “Missing Red Berets” and the “30 September 2013 Mutiny in Kati”. (See the report, Mali: Justice in Process).

On 12 November 2014, FIDH, AMDH and four other human rights and women’s rights defence organisations – WILDAF, the Association of Malian Female Jurists, DEME SO Association, the Collectif Cri de Cœur – filed a complaint with a plaintiff triggering criminal proceedings, on behalf of 80 women and girls, for sexual crimes committed in northern Maliduring the 2012-2013 conflict.

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