International Law

Rule of Law Essential to Restoring Malian Human Rights

The rule of law in Mali is at a critical juncture. In the past six months, the nation's government has been toppled by the military, the acting president was nearly beaten to death, there have been Taureg secessionist movements, and radical Islamists are imposing Sharia law upon territory they control in northern Mali.

In that region, an estimated 500,000 are now refugees. Drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, and prostitution under the guise of forced marriages are now a way of life where the Islamists retain power. Families are being paid relatively large sums of money for their children to be used as soldiers.

Dissent is not an option. With Sharia law comes draconian punishment for disobedience, including capital punishment, limb amputations, and floggings.

Complicating matters further is the fact that rival Islamist groups control different parts of northern Mali. Some are native Malians. Others are foreign radical Muslims. It remains to be seen whether common religious beliefs will trump differences in nationality. Given that this former French colony has been independent for merely half a century, and is artificially constructed from land steeped in the traditions of diverse tribal kingdoms and federations, the concept of a unitary national identity seems to be relatively weak in comparison to Islamist commonalities.

Without international assistance, the republic's interim government, led by Acting President Dioncounda Traoré and Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, is unlikely to retake the north, restore the rule of law, or bring the Islamists to justice for their war crimes.

With the support of the U.N. Security Council, now is the time for the following actions to take place:

1. A regional peacekeeping military force must retake northern Mali and restore civil liberties there on behalf of the interim Malian government.

2. Perpetrators of war crimes and other human rights abuses must be brought to justice either domestically or before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

3. Human rights victims and Malian refugees should receive international support through NGOs.

4. A U.N. taskforce of election observers should assist the Malian government in holding free and fair elections to replace the interim government.

For the rule of law must be restored in order for fundamental human rights to be restored in Mali.

Recommended Reading

Islamists Accused Of Using Intimidation, Drug Money To Control Northern Mali, RTT News (Oct. 11, 2012)

Mali rebels tied to drug trade, UPI (Oct. 11, 2012)

Islamist in Mali buys child soldiers, Afrik-News (Oct. 11., 2012)

Mali Islamists 'buying child soldiers, imposing Sharia', BBC News (Oct. 10, 2012)

Islamists in Mali paying for child soldiers, Washington Times (Oct. 10, 2012)

Mali: Islamists Use Fear, Drug Money to Maintain Control of Northern Mali - UN Rights Official, All Africa (Oct. 10, 2012)