Victory for Malian civil society as Ministers adopt HRD protection bill
On 4th January, government ministers in Mali adopted a draft bill on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). The strengthening of the legal and institutional framework surrounding the work of HRDs comes after years of relentless lobbying and negotiation by Malian civil society groups. As far back as 2010, a conference on the legal framework for human rights defenders had recommended drafting legislative provisions for the protection of HRDs. These recommendations eventually resulted in the creation of a draft bill in 2012.
Throughout 2016, groups such as the International Service for Human Rights Service (ISHR) and the Malian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COMADDH) organised workshops to draft preliminary laws on the protection of human rights defenders, victims and witnesses of human rights violations. Several awareness-raising and advocacy activities were also carried out by the Observatory of Human Rights and Peace (ODHP), with the support of the NGO DIAKONIA. The resulting passing of the legislation is testament to the commitment of the many civic actors who contributed to the bill's evolution and eventual adoption into law. The passing of the bill has been widely applauded by both domestic and international groups and hopes to usher in a new era of respect for those conducting work on social justice issues. If this bill is finally signed into law, Mali will join the small number of states (including their neighbour Cote d'Ivoire) which have enacted explicit legal protections for human rights defenders.