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Universal Periodic Review of Mali: Facing Human Rights Violations in Time of Crisis

28 January 2013

During the current session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), it was Mali’s turn on Tuesday to stand in front of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to engage in a review of its entire human rights situation.

In this case, the context in the country is very specific owing to the current political, institutional and humanitarian crisis Mali has been facing for almost a year now.

Respect of human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict

As now widely known, France and several African armies are currently leading military actions in Mali with the objective of restoring its security and sovereignty. Indeed, after the coup d’Etat perpetrated by mutinying Malian soldiers in March 2012, the situation quickly deteriorated to turn into a multifaceted crisis. Rebel groups then seized power in the northern region of Mali, with the intent to impose radical Islamism on the population.

Recent reports alleged that since the beginning of this political crisis, a high number of human rights violations were committed not only by the fundamentalist groups in the North of Mali, but also by the Malian police forces in the rest of the country.

WILPF therefore congratulates Mali for its participation in the UPR in spite of the crisis they are facing. In doing so, Mali has shown a commitment to the international accountability for human rights.

However, we regret that during the current conflict, the government of Mali has neglected its efforts to protect and promote human rights.

The UPR working group strongly noted on the recent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by terrorist groups and the Malian forces, such as torture, harassment, sexual abuse, corruption, extrajudicial executions, kidnapping and arbitrary arrests; they recommended Mali to lead independent and impartial investigations, and to prosecute those accountable for these crimes, as a means of protecting human rights.

In this critical period for Mali, the HRC recommended that the Malian government defend the refugees and displaced populations, and implement the necessary fittings for their protection.

Protection of women and children in spite of the conflict

Apart from the above-mentioned violations committed in time of conflict, Mali should end the following major human rights violations:

–       female genital mutilation (FGM)

–       child labour and child trafficking

–       death penalty

Malick Coulibaly, Minister of Justice, represented Mali during the review. He acknowledged that owing to the current events in the North and the absence of a stable government, the transitional authorities have very limited possibilities to implement the different recommendations made at the UPR. The Malian institutions are currently going through a period of constitutional normalization, and he argued that this prevents them from taking concrete steps for the protection and promotion of human rights.

As Mali was urged to implement efficient legislation against any form of violence against women, in particular against female genital mutilations, in conformity with Mali’s international obligations, the Malian delegation emphasized that the eradication of female genital mutilation was above all a matter of mentality rather than a matter of law. According to the Minister of Justice, public awareness through the National Programme for the Fight against Excision is more efficient than any kind of legislation.

Regarding women’s rights in general, the new Code of Persons and of Family, which was supposed to strengthen the legal rights of women and to condemn discriminations against them, actually formalizes men’s supremacy and worsens gender-based discrimination, constituting an appalling regression for women’s rights.

Even though the Malian Constitution guarantees the supremacy of international treaties over this code, the law states that a woman must obey her husband, the figure of the male as head of the family persists and the legal age for marriage is 16 for girls. These constitute a complete and scandalous contradiction between the domestic laws and the international commitments Mali has made.

The instances of children being recruited as soldiers by rebel groups is an issue of major concern for all. The government was urged to combat this recruitment as well as to reinforce children’s protection against violence and eradicate child labour and prostitution.

We join the HRC in wishing Mali reaches a solution to this multifaceted crisis as soon as possible, and hopes for the organisation at the earliest opportunity of free, fair, transparent and democratic elections in order to re-establish the security of the people of Mali.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

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WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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