memorandum by Ms Woldseth, rapporteur
1. During the Assembly 2012 October part-session, the
conflict in Mali and the serious human rights and security concerns
it raised for the Sahel and North African regions were discussed
in the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, upon the proposal
notably of the Moroccan partner for democracy delegation. The latter
insisted on the gravity of the situation and the consequences it
could have for the Mediterranean region as a whole, as well as on
the need for greater involvement of the international community.
2. Following this discussion and as agreed by the committee,
the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Pietro Marcenaro, made a statement
in which he condemned the “shocking human rights violations, including extrajudicial
executions in public, floggings, amputations and stoning to death”
inflicted on persons accused of crimes, outside any legal framework,
by the armed radical Islamist groups operating in northern Mali,
who appeared to be taking advantage of the destabilisation caused
by recent events in the region, in particular the war in Libya.
Referring to witness accounts not only of horrific physical punishments
but also of sexual violence against women and the use of child soldiers,
he urged “all groups present in the region to put an end to these barbaric
practices which are unacceptable in the 21st century”. He also drew
attention to the fact that the situation in Mali represented a real
threat to the stability of the region, including the Maghreb countries.
He supported the efforts of the transitional government of national
union in Mali to preserve the territorial unity and hold free and
democratic elections as soon as possible.
3. Some members of the committee had at the time raised doubts
as to whether the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly was
competent to discuss the conflict in Mali, noting that our action
should have some geographic limits.
4. Today, the deterioration of the human rights and security
situation, the increasing threats posed for the stability of the
whole African continent and the Mediterranean region by the very
real risk of having a terrorist and drug-trafficking regime established
in the Sahel and North African regions, prompting France to intervene militarily,
as well as the spillover of the crisis into Algeria, a country in
the Council of Europe’s immediate neighbourhood, where hundreds
of Algerian and foreign nationals were taken hostage by radical
Islamist terrorist groups leave no doubts – I believe – about the
relevance and significance of this debate for our Assembly.
5. The deaths of dozens of hostages in Algeria last week, including
nationals of Council of Europe member and observer States, also
tragically reminds us of the continuing threats posed by the scourge
of terrorism and of the need for an efficient international response,
including the suppression of the sources of the financing of terrorist
6. Here too, the Council of Europe has drawn up a comprehensive
set of efficient legal instruments to be used in the fight against
terrorism and its financing, which once again underscores the relevance
of our Organisation in this matter.
developments in Mali
7. The conflict which broke out in northern Mali in
January 2012 has its roots in the longstanding aspirations for independence
of the Tuareg people, a traditionally nomadic people living in the
Saharan parts in the north of the country, as well as in southern
Algeria and northern Niger. These aspirations gave rise to a first
Tuareg rebellion in 1962, following the end of French colonial rule,
and renewed rebellions in the early 1990s and then again in 2007.
8. During the 2011 civil war in Libya, many Tuareg who had settled
in Libya or been recruited as mercenaries fought alongside Gaddafi.
At the end of the Libyan war and Gaddafi’s defeat, Tuareg fighters returned
to northern Mali heavily armed and trained and began fighting the
government, claiming independence for the “Azawad” (term used to
designate a territory comprising the Malian regions of Timbuktu, Kidal,
Gao and part of the Mopti region). The Tuareg-dominated National
Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) initially allied itself
with the Islamist group Ansar Dine and started the 2012 rebellion
in northern Mali.
9. The use of heavy weapons, originating from the war in Libya,
apparently took Malian officials and foreign observers by surprise.
10. Towards the end of March 2012, dissatisfied with the way President
Touré was handling the rebellion in northern Mali and with the poor
equipment provided to the army, a group of junior soldiers, led
by Captain Amadou Sanogo, seized control of the presidential palace
and declared the government dissolved and the country’s constitution
suspended. Sanogo proclaimed himself the Chairman of the new National
Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR). The
latter would exercise interim power until the restoration of power
to a new, democratically elected government.
11. The coup was unanimously condemned by the international community,
including by the United Nations Security Council, the African Union
and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and sanctions
against Mali were imposed. The coup led to further political instability,
the disarray of the Malian army and the further impoverishment of
12. An agreement was finally reached between the military junta
and the ECOWAS negotiators on 6 April 2012, in which both Sanogo
and Touré would resign, sanctions would be lifted, the mutineers
would be granted amnesty, and power would be transferred to the
Speaker of the National Assembly of Mali, Diouncounda Traoré. Following
his inauguration, President Traoré pledged to wage “a total and
relentless war” on the Tuareg rebels unless they renounced control
of northern Malian cities.
13. However, in the meantime, taking advantage of a politically
chaotic situation, exacerbated by increasing poverty and food shortage
caused by sanctions, the rebel groups seized control over major
cities in the north, including Timbuktu.
14. On 6 April 2012, rebels from the MNLA declared independence
from Mali and the secession of a new State, “Azawad”. The declaration
of independence was rejected by the African Union and the European
Union as being invalid.
15. Shortly afterwards, the MNLA was, however, side-lined by radical
Islamist groups associated with Al-Qaeda, wishing to impose the
strict application of the Sharia law.
16. Failing to reconcile its vision of a new independent State
with that of the radical Islamists, the MNLA dropped its demands
for secession and started fighting against its previous allies,
Ansar Dine and other radical Islamist groups, including the Movement
for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), a group linked to
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
17. The second half of 2012 saw radical Islamist Al-Qaeda-linked
groups gradually seizing control of all major cities in northern
Mali, perpetrating shocking human rights violations, including against
the local population.
18. By December 2012, the now displaced MNLA began peace talks
with the Malian Government and renounced Azawadi independence in
favour of self-rule within Mali, declaring its readiness to help
its former opponents in the fight against the Islamists. The MNLA
is only strong in rural and desert areas near the borders with Mauritania,
Algeria and Niger, having been driven out from most of its claimed
territory by radical Islamist groups.
3 Foreign military
19. Following requests from both the Mali transitional
authorities and ECOWAS for foreign military intervention, United
Nations Security Council Resolution 2071, unanimously adopted on
12 October 2012, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter,
approved an African-led force to assist the army of Mali in combating
the Islamist militants. While authorising the planning of forces
and providing for United Nations resources to this planning, UN
Security Council Resolution 2071 did not authorise the deployment
of forces on the ground.
20. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2085, adopted two
months later, on 20 December 2012, did authorise the deployment
of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA)
for an initial period of one year, in co-ordination with other partners,
including a European Union-led training mission. However, it was
clear that the deployment of both the AFISMA and the EU-led mission
would not take place within days.
21. Subsequently, on 10 January 2013, radical Islamist forces
captured the strategic town of Konna, located 600 km from the capital.
An estimated 1 200 Islamist fighters later approached Mopti, a nearby
Mali military garrison town.
22. With the rapid advance of the radical Islamist Al-Qaida-linked
armed groups towards the capital, it started to become clear that
the very existence of Mali was at risk and that the stability of
the African continent as a whole and of the Mediterranean region
was threatened by the establishment of a terrorist and drug-trafficking
regime in the Sahel. This prompted the French authorities to decide
to intervene militarily in Mali.
23. On 11 January 2013, the French military launched “Opération Serval” in Mali, consisting
of air strikes and the deployment of some 2 000 French troops on
the ground. According to the French authorities, the number of troops
deployed in Mali will soon reach 2 500.
24. The United Nations Security Council and many member States
of the United Nations approved the French intervention, which was
welcomed with enthusiasm and relief by the Malian authorities. France, however,
expects African nations to take the lead.
25. The United Kingdom is also providing two C17 Royal Air Force
cargo planes in support of French efforts; Belgium, Canada and Denmark
are also sending transport planes. The Government of Spain approved
the dispatch of one transport aircraft to Mali for the purposes
of logistical and training support and the Government of Germany
authorised the contribution of two Transall C-160 transport aircraft
to ferry African troops into the capital, Bamako. Likewise, the
Government of Italy pledged air transport-based logistical support.
The European Union said it had increased preparations for sending
military training troops into Mali.
26. Moreover, troops from Chad, Nigeria, Togo and Benin have arrived
in Mali. The total number of African troops expected to arrive in
Mali includes 2 000 troops from Chad; 1 200 troops from Nigeria;
650 from Benin. Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo are expected
to send 500 each, and Ghana and Guinea are also expected to send
27. About 100 American trainers have also been deployed to Niger,
Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Togo and Ghana to discuss the training,
equipment and deployment needs of those countries with a view to
getting them ready to go into Mali. The United States is also providing
28. Increased involvement of, and solidarity by, other European
and African States, the European Union and the United States in
support of French and Malian forces on the ground are necessary
to put an end to the establishment of a terrorist and drug-trafficking
regime in the Sahel – with all the consequences this might have for
the Mediterranean region, Europe as a whole and the international
community at large – and restore Mali’s constitutional order and
4 Hostage crisis
and the tragic loss of human life in Algeria
29. On 16 January 2013, a heavily armed group of Islamist
terrorists attacked a bus transporting Algerian and foreign workers
from the Tigantourine gas plant to the nearby In Amenas airfield,
killing two people and wounding six. The terrorists then attacked
the gas installation, where they took more than 100 foreign workers and
an estimated 700 Algerians hostage.
30. A well-known Algerian terrorist, who leads a group which recently
split from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed to have
organised the attack in retaliation for the French intervention
in Mali and the Algerian decision to allow the French to use their
airspace in the course of its intervention.
31. That said, analysts claim that the careful preparation needed
for the hostage-taking on such a scale was hardly consistent with
the short time between the French intervention in Mali and the attack
and that it was most probably prepared well in advance.
32. Soon after the terrorists had taken control of the gas facilities,
the Algerian Army and Special Forces surrounded them.
33. On 17 January 2013, as the terrorists were trying to move
some of the hostages from the gas plant in a convoy, the Algerian
army attacked them. As a result, it was said that some of the hostages
and most of the terrorists were killed, while some were reported
to have survived.
34. According to the Algerian media, on 19 January, the remaining
terrorists started executing hostages (seven executions were reported),
which prompted the assault by the Algerian forces.
35. On 21 January, the Algerian Prime Minister announced that
38 hostages had died, including 37 foreign nationals of eight different
nationalities and one Algerian. Among those whose death has been
confirmed are one French, one American, three British and seven
Japanese. Five Norwegian Statoil employees are still missing – among
them the stepfather of Norway's Minister of International Development,
36. At the time of writing, some 20 hostages were still unaccounted
for. Some 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers are said to have
37. In spite of calls from foreign governments whose nationals
were among the hostages, it appears that the Algerian forces acted
without any prior consultation or information of the foreign governments
concerned. This may have been due to the urgency of the situation.
However, many analysts consider that the Algerian handling of the
attack coincides with the Algerian views on independence, the prestige
of its army and its approach to combating Islamist terrorism.
38. In order to understand better last week’s events, it is important
to recall the war the Algerian Army and Special Forces waged against
Islamist groups in the 1990s, triggered by the Islamic Salvation
Front (FIS) having nearly won the general election. This so-called
“dirty war” drove the Islamists from the north to the south and
then across the border to northern Mali, where they used the longstanding
Tuareg problem to fuel their own agenda and where they lived off
hostage-taking and drug trafficking. It is reported that Algerians
represent an overwhelming majority of the leadership of jihadist
groups active in northern Mali.
39. The tragic loss of life of so many people in Algeria last
week reminds the international community of the continuing threat
posed by the scourge of terrorism and the need for an efficient
international response, including the suppression of the sources
of financing of terrorist groups.
40. In this respect, I wish to recall that the Council of Europe
has drawn up a comprehensive set of legal instruments to be used
in the fight against terrorism and its financing, including in particular:
the revised European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism
(ETS No. 90, as revised by ETS No. 190), the Council of Europe Convention
for the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS No. 196), the Council of Europe
Convention on the Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of
the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (CETS
No. 198), as well as the Guidelines on Human Rights and the Fight
41. Council of Europe member and observer States should make full
use of these instruments in co-ordinating their actions against
terrorism and seeking to provide an effective and strong response
to the current threats.
5 Grave human rights
violations and humanitarian concerns
42. On 18 January 2013, the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report denouncing
the serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings,
rape and torture, which marked the conflict in northern Mali throughout
2012. The report, compiled by a mission deployed to Mali and its
neighbouring countries in November 2012, details how human rights
violations have been taking place since January 2012, when fighting
between government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in the north
of the country, and the subsequent seizing of control of the area
by radical Islamists.
43. The report highlights that the current human rights situation
is linked to longstanding and unresolved issues, and that human
rights violations have been committed both in the north, and in
the area under government control. It also warns that increasing
ethnic tensions could have alarming consequences on this North African
44. Members of the MNLA allegedly used students as human shields
to force military forces to surrender and later executed 94 of the
153 captured soldiers. Several Tuareg soldiers were also victims
of reprisals by members of the Malian army in the North, who reportedly
killed nine soldiers in Timbuktu in February 2012.
45. The report stresses that women in particular have undergone
degrading treatment by radical Islamist groups based on an extreme
interpretation of Sharia law. They have suffered from harassment,
abuse and sexual violence due to accusations of being improperly
veiled or dressed, or for riding a motorbike. According to the report
and the OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville, the rape of women and
girls, at times in front of family members and often apparently
carried out on an ethnic basis, have been repeatedly used in the
north to intimidate people and break up any form of resistance,
in a culture where rape is considered as taboo and where the victims
often are subjected to social exclusion. Girls as young as 12 or
13 have reportedly been forcibly married to radical Islamists and
46. Other reported human rights violations described in the report
include amputations, arbitrary detentions, torture, forced disappearances
and the recruitment of child soldiers.
47. Furthermore, the OHCHR mission highlighted the increasing
presence of self-defence militia and expressed alarm at the growing
ethnic tensions in Mali, which could also lead to possible acts
of revenge against the Tuareg and Arab communities, who are perceived
as being linked to the armed groups.
48. A report released as early as May 2012 by Amnesty International
stated that the conflict had created Mali's worst human rights situation
since 1960. The report documented instances of gang rape, extrajudicial executions
and the use of child soldiers by both Tuareg and Islamist groups.
49. To quote only a couple of examples of the shocking human rights
violations perpetrated by radical Islamist groups in northern Mali:
on 29 July 2012, a couple was stoned to death in Aguelhok for having
children out of wedlock; on 9 August, Islamist militants chopped
off the hand of an alleged thief in the town of Ansongo, despite
a crowd pleading with the militants for mercy.
50. In addition, during the conflict, radical Islamists damaged
or destroyed a number of historical sites, particularly in Timbuktu,
a UNESCO World Heritage site, on the grounds that they were idolatrous.
In late June 2012, radical Islamists attacked several more sites
in Timbuktu with pickaxes and shovels.
51. I can only but strongly condemn the continuing and shocking
human rights violations perpetrated by the radical Islamist rebels
in northern Mali. Noting that human rights violations have also
been committed in government-controlled areas, including summary
execution, we should also urge the Malian army and its supporters
to refrain from any violent reprisals when they start regaining
control in the north.
52. I also welcome the recent decision by the Prosecutor of the
International Criminal Court formally to open an investigation into
alleged crimes in Mali – including murder, rape and torture – with
a focus on the northern part of the country. The Prosecutor has
determined that some acts of brutality and destruction may constitute war
crimes. Following a thorough and impartial investigation, perpetrators
must be brought to justice and held accountable for the crimes they
have committed. Indeed, justice may offer some relief to victims
and their families.
53. Military clashes in the region have resulted in population
displacement both within Mali and into neighbouring countries. The
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported
that, in the past two weeks, 450 Malian refugees fled to Niger,
309 to Burkina Faso and 471 to Mauritania, joining existing camps.
As of January 2013, the estimated number of Malian refugees in the
region is 143 791, with some 54 100 in Mauritania, 50 000 in Niger,
38 800 in Burkina Faso and 1 500 in Algeria. There are also small
groups in Guinea and Togo. The internally displaced population inside
Mali, including people displaced last year and those newly displaced
in January 2013, is estimated by Mali’s Commission on Population
Movements at 228 918.
Refugees reported general insecurity, a deteriorated human
rights situation, the absence of subsistence opportunities and basic
services, and the imposition of Sharia Law. The UNHCR is continuing
to assist them by providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene
structures, health care and education. It has received only 63%
of the 123 million dollars required to assist Malian refugees and
anticipates needs at a further 195,6 million dollars for 2013.Note
Assembly calls on its member and observer States to provide concrete
support to the relief efforts by the UNHCR in Mali and neighbouring
6 Concluding remarks
55. The deterioration of the human rights and security
situation in Mali in recent months and the very real risk of having
a terrorist and drug-trafficking regime established in the Sahel
– which prompted the French intervention on the ground – clearly
represent a serious threat to the stability of the Mediterranean
region, Europe as a whole and the international community at large.
The tragic deaths of dozens of hostages last week in Algeria, including
nationals of Council of Europe member and observer States, has further
demonstrated the risk of contagion. Hence the need for greater involvement
of, and solidarity by the international community in halting the
radical Islamists in northern Mali.
56. The fact that the terrorist cells which have infiltrated Mali
in recent months reportedly originate from all over the world is
an additional element of concern. Here too, it is clear that the
fight against terrorism requires an efficient and well-co-ordinated
international response and the Council of Europe legal instruments
in this field can be of significant relevance.
57. In the draft resolution I have summarised other issues of
concern, such as the grave human rights violations perpetrated throughout
2012 in Mali and the humanitarian concerns the conflict has generated.
58. In concluding, I would like to stress that the conflict in
Mali escalated following a military coup and the collapse of democratic
institutions. It is essential that the transitional authorities
in Mali finalise a transitional roadmap, through inclusive political
dialogue, in order to restore constitutional order and the country’s
national unity, including through the holding of peaceful, credible
and inclusive presidential and legislative elections, as soon as
technically feasible. I believe that only a reconciliation process
can ultimately provide the response not only to the current human
rights, humanitarian and security challenges in Mali, but also to
the longstanding and unresolved problems in the region.