19th November Foreign Affairs Council on Mali: call for a comprehensive EU approach serving human rights

Press release

Open letter to Madam Ashton and Mr Lambrinidis

Dear Madam Ashton and Mr Lambrinidis,
Dear Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Development and Cooperation,
Dear PSC Ambassadors,
Dear Mr Piebalgs,

The EU and its Member States are currently discussing the best way to address the situation in Mali. In line with UN Security Council Resolution 2071(2012) that calls upon the member states, regional and international organizations, including the AU and the EU, to “provide assistance, expertise, training and capacity-building support to the armed and security forces of Mali”, the EUHR/VP has informed the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee that a "crisis management concept relating to the training and modernization of Malian forces" is envisaged and will be discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council of 19 November. Yesterday, in Paris, the Foreign Affairs Ministers and Ministers of Defense of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain confirmed that the project was still relevant, even if the format this assistance should take and its articulation with the political dialogue and development cooperation remain to be clarified.

Whatever format the support may take (CSDP mission and/or other), FIDH, the International Federation for Human Rights and its member organization, the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH), call upon the EU to place human rights at the center of its response and adopt a holistic EU approach to the situation in Mali.

In consequence, and in advance of the 19 November discussions in the Foreign Affairs Council on Mali, FIDH and the AMDH call on the European Union and its Member States to ensure that the UN Security Council, should it authorize the deployment of an international military force, integrates a strong focus on human rights both in the mandate and the modalities of deployment of this force. We also call on the EU to ensure that human rights are adequately addressed if an EU CSDP (or other form) mission is approved. Finally, we call on the EU to focus its attention on strengthening the rule of law in Mali as a key element to ensure that tangible institutional and human rights advances are identified as key building steps in the solving of the crisis and the transition:

EU must ensure human rights are integrated in the mandate of the UN-backed and possible CSDP (or other form) missions

The European Union and its Member States, especially those in the UN Security Council, must ensure that the deployment of an international military force to assist the armed forces of Mali, as well as a potential CSDP (or other form) mission to assist the efforts of the Malian forces, are accompanied by the proper safeguards for civilian protection, respect for human rights and proper monitoring capability. The UN-backed and CSDP (or other form) forces will indeed conduct operations in cooperation with a weak Malian army, which contains units and officers implicated in serious human rights abuses and in violations of international humanitarian law. In this sense, the UN-backed and EU forces will have to build on lessons learned from the Somalia intervention under AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) for which the absence of a well-staffed team to monitor and report on adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties of the conflict led to an accountability-free zone. Abuses committed by AMISOM troops, the various armed forces and groups, including government-backed and anti-government militias, were not adequately prevented, reported and addressed.

In a decade of crisis management operations, the EU has shown leadership regarding the systematic integration of human rights in the planning and implementation phases of CSDP missions. We therefore call on the EU to ensure that these elements are applied within the establishing of the UNSC mandate and the potential CSDP (or other form) mission.

Concerning the UN-backed ECOWAS/AU mission, we call on the EU and Member States to:

  • ensure that the UNSC mandate foresees the deployment of a strong and well-staffed team of UN human rights observers alongside the international military force to monitor adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law, and report publicly and regularly to the Security Council on its findings and recommendations.
  • ensure that the UNSC mandate allows for appropriate human rights training to contingents.
  • ensure that the UNSC mandate includes vetting procedures and provisions allowing for independent and impartial investigation of allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, whatever the parties involved.
  • in the event the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court decides, according to the Rome Statute, to open an investigation in Mali, require the UNSC mandated international force to provide the Court with full cooperation as requested in the course of the investigation, and support the enforcement of the arrest warrant.

Concerning the potential CSDP (or other form) mission, we call on the EU and Member states to include the above mentioned recommendations and more especially to:

  • include in the Council Decision establishing the mandate of the possible future CSDP (or in any other decision if the support takes an other form), the obligation for the EU mission to prevent and promote international human rights law and integrate human rights guarantees in the mission’s benchmarks, planning and evaluation, in line with the EU Strategic Framework for Human Rights and Democracy.
  • include in the potential CSDP (or other form) mission mandate an accountability mechanism to deal with possible breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
  • provide in the potential CSDP (or other form) mission sufficient human rights staffing, expertise and training (including towards the Malian forces). Foresee human rights advisors in the enabling mandate of the mission. Precise that they shall be tasked with ensuring the mainstreaming of human rights, the provision of guidance for operations, the monitoring and public reporting of the human rights situation and the sending of recommendations to ensure human rights are integrated in policy decisions concerning the mission.
  • provide that the mission work in close coordination with other relevant regional and international bodies and United Nations mechanisms and hold regular exchanges with SCOs in order to benefit from their experience, expertise and early warning capacity.
  • implement UNSC resolutions 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security from the early planning phase to the conduct and follow-up of the future operations.
  • ensure that the same human rights considerations and safeguards are integrated in the EU regional response, including in the CSDP EUCAP SAHEL Mission in Niger launched in August 2012, which aims at training Nigerian forces and reinforcing the regional security coordination.

EU must provide adequate pressure to ensure human rights are at the centre of a transition

The resolution of the situation in North Mali, as well the effectiveness and legitimacy of the long-term cooperation between Mali and the EU beyond the crisis will only succeed if the challenges facing the whole country are faced.

The EU should therefore adopt a comprehensive approach by combining a political approach (support to the ECOWAS/AU/UN solution, continuation and strengthening of the dialogue) with the military (support to the future ECOWAS/AU mission and future CSDP), humanitarian, cooperation and economical ones. In doing so, and to ensure human rights are placed at the centre of the road towards transition, the EU should “make use of the full range of instruments at its disposal” and “ensure the best articulation between dialogue, targeted support, incentives and restrictive measures”. This would imply that the EU makes full use of all leverage represented by reactive measures that foster tangible commitments while stepping-up human right.

This combination of a wide range of instruments corresponds to the principles of the EU Strategy for Cooperation and Development in Sahel and the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.

We call on the EU and Member States to:

  • clarify the time-bound conditions for a gradual reestablishment of EU development cooperation aid by using the possibilities offered by articles 8, 9 and 96 of the Cotonou agreement, and ensure at minimum the realization of the following benchmarks:

- adoption and implementation of a credible and consensual road map for transition and setting up of an inclusive national dialogue open to civil society organizations in order to ensure the reestablishment of the Constitutional order, the rule of law and a fully sovereign democratic government;

- taking measures to ensure the respect and fulfillment of all human rights, including economic and social rights in the areas under control of the transition authorities;

- immediate liberation of all persons arbitrarily detained following the coup;

- guaranteeing the physical and moral integrity of human rights defenders, journalists and members of the civil society.

- setting-up of a national Commission of Inquiry to look into cases of human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, support the efforts to held accountable those responsible (military and responsible) for these violations.

- establishing an electoral framework and a calendar for free, fair and transparent elections to democratically designate the government and the President.

  • ensure that this incentive approach established in the framework of the Cotonou art. 8, 9 and 96 consultations be reinforced by the sanctioning of human rights violators, through the setting-up, in coordination with ECOWAS and AU partners, of targeted sanctions (visa bans and asset freeze) against individuals and organizations involved in violations (militia, insurgents, self-defense groups or armed forces).
  • provide support for the organization of future elections through technical and political support to establish a framework and agenda. A future Election Observation Mission should be placed in the wider context of reinforced EU support to democratic institutions and electoral assistance.

In any case:

  • Continue to closely monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation, call with partners for unconditional humanitarian access, step up assistance for the most vulnerable groups
  • Support the realization of human rights including the rights to food, health and education, and redirect funds to that end
  • Step-up financial and political support to human rights defenders and the civil society at EU Delegation and diplomatic levels.

Background information:

FIDH and AMDH issued last July an investigative report on international crimes committed by armed Islamist groups and MNLA in the North of Mali since the beginning of the offensive in mid-January 2012. Our organizations identified dozens of war prisoners’ executions, summary and extra-judicial executions, rapes and other sexual crimes, recruitment of child soldiers, hostage-takings, arbitrary detentions, lootings and destruction of goods, particularly of invaluable cultural goods and places of worship. The international crimes identified in this report were committed during the six-month conquest of North of Mali by the combined forces of the Tuareg from MNLA and the Islamists from AQIM, Ansar Dine and MUJAO, and to a lesser extent, by self-defense groups and military men from the Malian army.

Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH President

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