Women & Children Greatest Victims in Mali but Who Will Save Them? By, Ambassador Mo

“Women are the primary victims of the current crisis and have been disproportionately affected by the situation in the north. Their human rights to employment, education and access to basic social services have been seriously curtailed,” according to Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, concluding a 4 day visit.

“We Have to Act in Mali”
In the meantime at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, there has been a rising call for military intervention led by the French to confront the rebels in northern Mali largely characterized as “Islamist” and Al-Qaeda affiliated: “We have to act in Mali because Mali” asserts  Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to UN: “the Northern part of Mali, is becoming a hub for terrorist groups and it’s frightening not only Mali but the region, and beyond the region, the world. We have to act as quickly as possible. We know that we have to act in political and military terms, both of them have to go hand by hand, but we need a military intervention.”

Ideological or Exploitive?
“Civil and political rights are being severely restricted as a result of the imposition of a strict interpretation of Sharia law, and systemic cruel and inhuman[e] punishments are being implemented, including executions, mutilations and stonings,” according to Mr. Šimonovic, former Ambassador of Croatia to the UN and colleague.  “Most disturbing,” according to Ambassador Simonovic’s news release were indications that “Islamist groups” were compiling lists of women who have had children out of wedlock, or who were unmarried and pregnant. “This could indicate that these women are at imminent risk of being subjected to cruel and inhuman[e] punishment.”

Teachers Flee – No Schooling for Children:
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says children have been deprived of their rights to education in the north because many teachers had fled, leading to the closure of schools. More ominously, extreme poverty, lack of employment and education is “making it easy for young people to fall prey to armed extreme Islamist groups, who continue to lure youth and children to join their cause.”

Non-Islamist Mali also Continuing Corruption & Human Rights Abuses:
Unfortunately, in the southern part of Mali still under the control of a weak, military backed Government, Ambassador Šimonovic indicated continuing torture and inhumane prison conditions.  At least 30 participants of an April counter-coup remained in detention, and many had allegedly not had charges brought against them. Also, the whereabouts of 20 soldiers involved in the counter-coup had yet to be confirmed. “It is essential that the authorities investigate these cases of disappearances in accordance with international human rights standards. Current violations are to a great degree symptoms of the chronic disrespect for human rights that already existed in Mali in the past,” according to Mr. Šimonovic. “There is a need to address these root causes, including widespread corruption, mismanagement of public funds, inequality between the elite and general population, and nepotism, amongst others.”
Mr. Šimonovic emphasized the need for investigations into the recent human rights violations in both the north and the south, and said it was essential the perpetrators be held to account as a precondition for reconciliation and social cohesion. Ambassador Simonovic emphasized that any UN support to Malian security forces “must” conform to the UN’s Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, which prohibits the UN from supporting security forces involved in grave human rights violations.

Women Most Severely Affected:
Regarding female empowerment and advancing women’s human rights, Ambassador Simonovic offered that measures can be taken to promote participation in public life. Ambassador Šimonovic indicated that he was encouraged by the Prime Minister’s recognition that women have an important role to play in building peace and reconciliation as well as the economic prosperity of the country. “One concrete way would be to introduce a 30 per cent quota for women in Parliament ahead of the next legislative elections,” OHCHR according to Ambassador Simonovic was ready to support the Malian authorities in this regard, including through appointing a Human Rights Adviser to the UN Country Team in the capital, Bamako.

Who is Willing to Intervene in Mali Chaos & by What Mandate?

Back at UNHQ in New York, the debate regarding international intervention remains ambiguous. For most of the last year there has been discussion of the UN Security Council authorizing ECOWAS intervention. However, as French Ambassador Arnaud concedes, no further UNSC authority is not so much the matter as is defining who will enter this chaos: “I think it’s time to have a new resolution in a sort of two-stage approach. A new resolution which energizes, I should say, the African response on the basis of the two new facts, which is an official request by the Malian authorities to create an international force on one side and on the other side, of course, the high level event where we have heard several Heads of State and Government calling for a military intervention. We do hope that we will be able to authorize deployment of the force as soon as possible, but again it doesn’t depend on the Security Council because it will be a force that will be an African force. So, we are not going to, as I said, give a carte blanche. We need to have concrete elements and we have been waiting for these elements for a few months.”

Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey – FOLLOW mo @MuhamedSacirbey

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