Justice crucial to Mali peace

2014-11-11 05:37
Malian soldiers patrolling in Kidal, northern Mali. (Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP)

Malian soldiers patrolling in Kidal, northern Mali. (Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP)

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Dakar - Human Rights Watch has criticised a draft agreement to bring peace to conflict-hit Mali, saying on Monday the deal would not provide justice for abuses committed by all sides.

The accord, seen by an AFP correspondent in Bamako, has been accepted by the government and rebel groups ahead of talks scheduled to begin on 20 November in Algiers.

"The final agreement should include provisions to support the prosecution of war crimes, strengthen the truth-telling commission, and ensure the vetting of security force personnel," Corinne Dufka, HRW senior west Africa researcher, said in a statement released by the group.

Mali has been at war with insurgents intermittently since it gained independence in 1960.

The west African nation lost control of its vast northern desert to Islamist groups for several months, prompting a French-led military intervention launched in January 2013.

"It is time to break the decades-long cycle of conflict, abuse, and impunity," Dufka said.

"Any deal which turns a blind eye to the need for justice will not only disregard the rights of victims and their families, but also encourage further abuses and sabotage a truly durable peace."

The draft agreement provides for some autonomy in Mali's diverse regions, recognising the ability of local ethnic populations to take charge of their own security and policing.

The document envisages the transfer from 2017 of "33 percent of state revenues to local authorities... with special attention to the north".

It also sets out plans for a programme of "disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation" for members of armed groups.

No vetting

But HRW criticised the lack of any vetting procedure for security personnel in the draft.

It called for an independent vetting commission to block applications to join the security forces from "those credibly implicated in serious human rights abuses" as well as the removal of abusers who are already soldiers or police.

"All parties to the 2012-2013 armed conflict in northern Mali committed serious violations of the laws of war that included possible war crimes," the organisation said.

It cited the summary executions of up to 153 soldiers in the northern town of Aguelhok by opposition armed groups and widespread looting and sexual violence by the ethnic Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

The statement also highlighted the recruitment of child soldiers, amputations, and destruction of shrines by Islamist armed groups.

"Malian soldiers were also implicated in serious abuses, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture or ill-treatment of suspected rebels," it said.

Read more on:    hrw  |  mali  |  west africa

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