Human rights abuses in Mali are now “more systematic”: senior UN officialSouce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 11/10/2012 2:29 pm in World / 1 comment
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) — A senior UN official said here Wednesday that the pattern of human rights violations in Mali is now “more systematic,” and called for the government to re- take control of the rebel-held northern part of the West African country.
“The pattern of human rights violations is changing,” Ivan Simonovic, the UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, said at a press conference here. “What is new now is that humans rights violations are becoming more systematic.”
The press conference took place following Simonovic’s four-day visit to Mali to assess the human rights situation there.
Simonovic, a Croatian diplomat and former Croatian justice minister, was appointed in May 2010 the UN assistant secretary- general for human rights
Islamic militants have established a strict Sharia law in the north following an unplanned coup in April, and the “population is suffering a number of human rights violations, particularly targeted at women,” said Simonovic.
Under the strict laws, women are facing restrictions in the ability to work, an increase in forced marriages and drastic punishments, he said.
Children are also quite vulnerable in this situation, he said, “there is reliable evidence of many children being enlisted” as child soldiers.
Simonovic said that two-thirds of the country is now under the control of Islamic militants, or roughly the size of France.
“When speaking about the situation in the north, the best illustration is that over one third of the population in the north have fled,” he said.
More than 200,000 refugees and 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been registered by the UN Refugee office thus far.
The situation is so tenuous that UN officials and agencies, including those bearing humanitarian assistance, have been barred from entering the north of the country.
Simonovic explained that the underlying instability of the West African country, which caused the coup, is due to widespread poverty, with more than half of the country living under the global poverty line of 1.25 U.S. dollars a day.
“What is quite needed is for the government to take control over rebel-controlled area and the organization of a credible election,” he said. “The sooner those processes are over, the better for the country.”