A UN independent human rights expert said on Wednesday that Mali’s new military authorities should “scrupulously respect human rights” and release all leaders detained in last week’s coup.
Alioune Tine, independent expert for human rights in Mali, said that contrary to news reports, President Bah N’Daw and former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were not freed by the military on 27 May, but instead moved to house arrest.
The development follows Mali’s second coup in less than a year.
The ousted President and Prime Minister were initially held on Monday 24 May at Kati military camp near the capital, Bamako, with five other top civilian and military officials.
Only two of the five officials have been released to date, Mr. Tine said, before endorsing the call of West African bloc ECOWAS for new presidential elections in February 2022.
Last Friday, Mali’s constitutional court declared Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the military coup in August, to be the new interim president.
“I call upon Malian transitional authorities to immediately end the house arrest of these two men and to release three senior military officials from arbitrary detention,” he said.
Restore rule of law
“I call upon all Malian transitional authorities to scrupulously respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to restore the rule of law.”
“Malian authorities must lift the house arrest of these two individuals and allow the remaining detainees to communicate with their families and lawyers and to receive visits”, underscored the UN expert.
He also maintained that Mali must allow human rights officers from the UN mission MINUSMA, as well as representatives of national human rights institutions and organizations, to visit them.
The independent expert said Mali must form an inclusive government to move the country – now suspended from ECOWAS institutions – back to constitutional order and rule of law.
The African Union (AU) has also reportedly suspended the country’s membership.
After two coups in Mali within 10 months, Mr. Tine called for national and international actors to strengthen State institutions and the rule of law to avoid repeated crises and to ensure respect for all human rights.
However, he said the main responsibility lies with Malians themselves.
“I call on political, military and civil society leaders to exercise restraint and to engage in an in-depth dialogue in order to restore lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Mali”.
UN under attack
Meanwhile, the premises of the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, were targeted on Tuesday by unidentified assailants in Aguelhok, in the Kidal region.
Preliminary reports describe a complex attack involving indirect mortar and small arms fire against a number of MINUSMA locations there.
“UN peacekeepers retaliated, forcing the assailants to flee. No casualties or material damage have been reported on the UN side”, according to UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujaric.
At the same time, MINUSMA continues to closely monitor political developments in the country and reiterated its commitment to work with ECOWAS and the AU towards a return to constitutional order through free and transparent elections.
MINUSMA joined ECOWAS in stressing that the transition timetable be respected and concluded within the agreed to18-month deadline.
“To achieve this goal, the Mission says it is important that the new government, headed by a civilian prime minister, be inclusive and enjoy the broadest possible support”, said Mr. Dujarric.
The UN peacekeeping mission also reiterated the demand that house arrest measures be immediately lifted and for the “immediate and unconditional release” of aides and staff.
“We will continue to support the people of Mali, unwavering support, [as it] continues to pursue its efforts to combat insecurity, support the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, and help stabilize the country, in line with the UN peacekeeping mission’s mandate in the country”, said the Spokesperson.