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24 February 2020

The Council of Ministries adopts the implementation decree on the law on protection of human rights defenders

The International Service for Human Rights, COMADDH (Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains, Front Line Defenders and ROADDH (Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains) welcome the adoption of the decree number 2020-0087/P-RM by the Malian government. The decree, signed on 18 February 2020, establishes the modalities for the implementation of the law on protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). This is an important step to guarantee the implementation of the law on protection of HRDs, which was adopted on 12 January 2018, despite some concerns that HRDs will need to obtain a card or badge to be identified as defenders.

“Mali has taken an important step to recognise the work of human rights defenders. The implementation of this law will convince us of the real protection of these actors by the Malian government”, said Mélanie Sonhaye Kombate, Director of Programs and Advocacy at ROADDH.

We are pleased to note that the government has taken into account the recommendations of civil society and, for instance, that Article 13 provides for the establishment of a mechanism for the protection of HRDs, within the Subcommittee on Human Rights Protection of the National Human Rights Commission. This institution will play a key role in the effective implementation of the law.

“Approving this implementation decree, Mali has committed to becoming an ally and a supporter in the protection of human rights defenders. The concrete actions that will follow from this commitment should effectively reflect the provisions included in the decree. The subcommittee on human rights protection, as part of the National Human Rights Commission, must be the primary ally for an effective protection of human rights defenders in Mali”, said Mariam Sawadogo, Protection Coordinator for West and Central Africa at Front Line Defenders.

“Mali has taken an important step in the protection of human rights defenders adopting this decree, and even more ensuring the creation of a mechanism of protection that will allow the implementation of the law adopted in 2018. When establishing this mechanism, we invite Mali to ensure that civil society will be fairly represented and that there will be enough financial resources to ensure it can fully function”, said Adélaïde Etong Kame, Programme Manager for Africa at ISHR.

While welcoming this positive development, we express concern for Article 3 of the decree, which affirms that HRDs, to be recognised as such, will need a card or badge delivered by the Human Rights Ministry. Moreover, the article does not state how or which criteria will be used to grant this badge. With this provision, the article goes against the wider definition of HRDs as defined in the Malian law in 2018 and by international standards as in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. As a consequence of this provision, there will be a limitation in the application of the law and therefore in the protection of HRDs in the country.

"The adoption of the decree completes the legal toolbox for the protection of human rights defenders in Mali, the most progressive in Africa. It makes Mali, the country of the Kurukanfuga Charter of 1236, a champion in the court of old nations of human rights. However, the beautiful and exemplary national effort is marred by the laconic reference to the card or badge for the human rights defender, as if it was necessary to label some individuals more humane or more respectful of human dignity than others," said Mohamed El Moctar Mahamar, COMADDH’s President.

The four organisations that signed this declaration would like to encourage the Malian authorities to continue their work to guarantee better protection for human rights defenders, by working towards the rapid and effective implementation of this decree, particularly through the establishment of the protection mechanism. The adoption of a protection law is a necessary step, but its effective implementation is crucial for the protection of human rights defenders. For this reason, they reiterate their willingness and availability to accompany the authorities in this process.

For further information, contact :

MAHAMAR Mohamed El Moctar, COMADDH

Mariam SAWADOGO, Front Line Defenders