Mali - third African country to adopt law on protection of HRDs


On 12th January 2018, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita enacted the Law on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), which was approved by Mali's parliament on 13th December 2017. The law, initially adopted by the Council of Minister in January 2017, comes after years of persistent advocacy and negotiation by Malian civil society groups. As far back as 2010, at a conference on the legal framework for human rights defenders, legislative recommendations were developed for the protection of HRDs. These recommendations eventually resulted in the creation of a draft bill in 2012. 

Some of the provisions in the law include the inviolability of homes and offices of HRDs, the right to receive funding for their activities and the principle of non-refoulement of any HRD to a country where the person could risk torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Specific provisions are made for women HRDs and HRDs with disabilities. Mahamar Mohamed El Moctar from Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains said in a joint statement with West African Human Rights Defenders Network, Front Line Defenders and International Service for Human Rights that:

"In adopting this law, which was initiated by civil society, Mali recognises the role that we play as human rights defenders in the development of the country and our need for protection. It’s a law of vital importance for us".

Mali is the third African country to enact a law on the protection of human rights defenders. Côte d’Ivoire adopted a law on the protection of HRDs in June 2014, while Burkina Faso followed suit in June 2017. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 10th January 2018, police dispersed a protest in Bamako over the presence of French military in Mali. About one hundred protesters gathered in Bamako on the eve of the 5th anniversary of the start of the French intervention in the country. Several youth organisations and movements organised the protest. 'Operation Serval' began on 11th January 2013 when the French intervened to stop the uprising of several militant and jihadist groups in the north of the country and to restore peace. It was later replaced by the broader 'Operation Barkhane' in the Sahel region in August 2014. 

On 20th September 2017, several civil society organisations organised a protest after a CNN report was released on the the presence of slave markets in Libya. The protest started as a 'sit-in' in front of the Embassy of Libya in Bamako, followed by a protest against slavery in Libya at the Pyramide du Souvenir. Some protesters called on the United Nations, the international community and the Malian authorities to take specific measures to ensure the immediate release of enslaved African migrants and to hold those responsible for the slavery, while others condemned the European Union's migration policies. The protests took place without any reported incidents.