BY OMITOSIN JIDE CYPRIANO
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday he deeply regrets Mali’s recent decision to declare the top UN human rights representative as persona non grata.
The transitional Government of Mali had made the announcement on Sunday, in effect, barring the Director of the Human Rights Division of the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) from staying in the country, who is the top representative of the UN human rights office (OHCHR) there.
Critical need to protect rights
In the context of the political transition towards a return to constitutional order in Mali, the UN chief underscored the critical need for the Malian authorities to protect human rights, including in particular, freedom of expression, which is crucial for the functioning of a democratic society.
He expressed full confidence in MINUSMA and the commitment and professionalism of its personnel to implement the mission’s mandate to support Mali and its people, including in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Designation does not apply to UN
Highlighting the doctrine of persona non grata, he noted that it is not applicable to UN personnel. The doctrine is also contrary to the legal framework applicable to the UN, including with respect to obligations under the UN Charter and those concerning the privileges and immunities of its personnel.
Entering the eleventh year of a chronic security crisis, Mali faces ongoing instability, violence and the spread of extremists and armed groups. Concerns also persist about the Wagner Group’s activities in the country, a Russia-based private military contractor.
Late last month, UN-appointed independent rights experts called on Malian authorities to launch a probe into the mass execution of civilians in 2022, allegedly by the Government forces and the military contractor.
MINUSMA was established in 2013 following insecurity in the north and a failed military coup by Islamist rebels, who still hold sway across much of the north and centre of the country.