Oct 032014

NEW YORK, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Secretary-General is shocked and outraged by today’s attack in Mali that killed nine Nigerien peacekeepers on 3 October.

In the deadliest attack committed against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to date, a MINUSMA convoy travelling from Ménaka to Ansongo (Gao region) was ambushed this morning. This attack brings the total number of casualties from hostile acts since the beginning of the mission on 1 July 2013 to 30 peacekeepers killed and 90 peacekeepers wounded.

The Secretary-General underscores that attacks on UN peacekeepers constitute a serious violation of international law. He reminds the armed groups operating in Northern Mali of their commitment to cooperate with the United Nations to prevent attacks against peacekeepers in line with their declaration of 16 September in Algiers. At a time when peace negotiations are underway, he insists that all parties must demonstrate good faith and commitment to a political solution and that the perpetrators of these appalling actions are brought to justice.

The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the peacekeepers who were killed as well as to the Government and people of Niger. He assures the people of Mali of the United Nations steadfast support to their search for peace.

Oct 032014

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, will carry out his third official visit to Mali from 8 – 17 October 2014. This visit takes place against the backdrop of the fragile security situation in the north of the country and the re-launch of the Algiers Peace Process, which intends to find a peaceful and lasting settlement to the Malian crisis.

“In view of the recent wave of releases of detainees who were involved in the armed conflict, including some who are suspected or accused of international crimes, my visit will afford me the opportunity to hear more of the victim’s perspective to this crisis,” Mr. Baldo said.

“Let me recall an African proverb which says that, when the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In the case of Mali, the grass symbolises the victims of this crisis, who paid a heavy price, and feel excluded from the political and judicial process, which seems more favourable to the political actors who were the source of mayhem,” he added.

At the presentation of his last report to the Human Rights Council on 25 March 2014, Mr. Suliman Baldo affirmed that “ … since independence, impunity constitutes one the main causes of the recurring crisis in northern Mali.”

“This vicious cycle has to be broken as we will not be able to achieve durable peace without justice. Previous peace accords responded more to the demands and needs of the principal protagonists to the conflict than to the requirement for justice, for reparations and for guarantees of a non-repetition,” the human rights expert concluded.

During his ten-day mission, Mr. Baldo would meet members of the Malian government, the judiciary, the security services, the Presidency of the Malian National Commission on Human Rights as well as the Secretary General of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. He will also meet with representatives of non-governmental organisations, religious leaders, the diplomatic community and the United Nations Country Team in Mali.

The Independent Expert is scheduled to make unannounced calls to places of detention across Mali and also visit northern Mali.

At the end of his visit, the press will have an opportunity to interact with the Independent Expert to discuss his preliminary observations, findings and recommendations. Further information on this meeting with the media will be released in the coming days.

The Independent Expert is expected to present the findings of his third mission to the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.

Oct 032014

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Killings and acts of physical violence committed against civilians, the destruction of homes and businesses, attacks against rescue workers: the list of violations of international humanitarian law taking place on an almost daily basis is long. Just as it is imperative that emergency action be taken to save lives, it is essential that weapon bearers be convinced that they must obey the rules that protect civilians.

“Spreading knowledge of the basic rules of international humanitarian law, such as those that prohibit attacks on people who have been injured or on medical vehicles, is one of the ICRC’s priorities in the Central African Republic,” said Jean-François Sangsue, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui. “The actions of the parties to the conflict have a direct impact on the victims. The parties therefore need to know the rules. They need to respect them and enforce respect for them.”

The challenge is enormous. How is it possible to preserve even a little humanity when hatred is so strong, when the desire for vengeance is so great that it seemingly justifies anything? How can armed groups or civilians taking up arms be taught the basic rules of international humanitarian law when the country is rife with chaos and danger, and plagued by impunity? It is difficulties such as these that the ICRC strives to cope with every day in the Central African Republic by means of neutral and impartial humanitarian work and regular dialogue with the parties to the conflict and everyone taking part in the armed violence. The aim is twofold: to bring about greater respect for the rules of international humanitarian law and the rules applicable in law enforcement operations, and to give the ICRC, the Central African Red Cross Society and other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement safe access to detainees and other people needing help. The meetings between the ICRC and weapon bearers (armed groups, international forces, gendarmerie, police, and armed civilians taking part in the fighting), whether organized as training courses or as information sessions customized to suit each audience, are intended to bring about greater respect and improved protection for the wounded, the sick, detainees and the population in general.

Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of personnel from the anti-Balaka and ex-Séléka armed groups have attended sessions in Bangui and elsewhere on the basic principles of international humanitarian law, such as the protection of the civilian population, and respect for human dignity and for medical services. In Bambari, Kaga Bandoro, Kabo, Dekoa and Boda, the same message was repeated for these parties to the conflict.

“This is a long-term effort,” said Mr Sangsue. “Contact has to be constantly maintained, and we have to tirelessly explain and inform, and promote respect for the basic rules of international humanitarian law. Better knowledge of the law can help prevent people from breaking it.”

The ICRC is also in contact with all foreign, regional and multinational forces in the Central African Republic. Both at the time of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and ahead of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), some military and police contingents from troop-contributing countries attended information sessions on international humanitarian law and human rights. In some countries, the ICRC provides training for troops set to leave on a UN mission prior to their departure, as was the case for Rwandan, Senegalese, Cambodian and Tunisian contingents. Two days after the UN mission in the Central African Republic officially began, the ICRC met in Bangui with the commanders of the contingents and with senior staff of MINUSCA to discuss certain humanitarian problems and the cooperation expected between the military branch of MINUSCA and the ICRC, just as it had done previously with MISCA. The ICRC is also in regular contact with the European Union Force (EUFOR) and with the French Sangaris force, a party to the conflict.

“Since the beginning of September, the country’s security forces have been undergoing training and rebuilding,” said Anand Appadoo, an ICRC delegate in charge of training police units. “We are involved in the training of more than 300 Central African police and gendarmerie personnel. The focus is on learning how to behave in accordance with international human rights law.”

Because civilians have also taken part in the violence, the ICRC endeavours to raise awareness of humanitarian rules in neighbourhoods and villages. In Bangui, Ndélé, Kaga Bandoro and Bambari, meetings have occasionally been organized with community and religious leaders and with youth organizations where humanitarian problems and the most basic rules of humanity – those that everyone must obey – have been discussed.

In close cooperation with the Central African Red Cross Society, the ICRC is sharing its knowledge of rescue techniques and emergency medical assistance with community representatives and members of armed groups. Because most of the latter have never received training in first aid, they are unable to provide proper care for combat casualties. For fighters and civilians alike, life-saving skills are all the more important as the small number of health-care facilities in the country that have not lost all their personnel or been destroyed are often situated far from combat zones.

Between 21 August and 25 September 2014, in cooperation with the Central African Red Cross, the ICRC:

● saw more than 11,000 patients, covered the cost of hospitalizing more than 350 sick patients, and performed over 90 operations and over 90 deliveries in hospitals and other facilities in Bangui, Kaga Bandoro and nearby;

● reunited eight children with their families after they had been separated by the conflict, including one child who had been in an armed group, and restored contact between 25 individuals and other members of their families;

● provided the detention centre in Bangui with enough basic medical supplies to treat up to 1,000 people;

● built a 70,000-litre water reservoir to boost storage capacity at a site at the airport where displaced people have gathered;

● raised awareness among more than 21,000 people of proper hygiene and sanitation practices;

● provided drinking water every day for 10,000 people in the hospital of Ndélé and elsewhere in the city;

● provided food aid for nearly 17,000 displaced people at seven sites in Bangui;

● vaccinated 3,000 head of cattle in the Kaga Bandoro area against contagious bovine pleuropneumonia.

During the same period, ICRC staff also visited more than 400 detainees to assess the treatment they were receiving.