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Transitional justice describes a range of strategies, including criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, victim reparations and institutional reforms, that promote accountability, reconciliation and, ultimately, peace in response to a period of serious human rights violations. The crisis in Mali led to a rapid deterioration in human rights situation, with reports of human rights abuses committed by rebel groups and the Malian army. These violations exacerbated inter-community divisions and further undermined respect for the rule of law. With the end of hostilities in northern Mali, the Malian government is now tasked with crafting transitional justice policies that reflect the needs of victims, facilitate the implementation of the government’s pledge to pursue national reconciliation and reestablish respect for the rule of law in the country.
Since June 2013, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has partnered with Freedom House to support Malian civil society organizations as they participate in the design and implementation of the country’s transitional justice strategy. With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, ABA ROLI is convening a civil society coalition to advocate for a victim-centric transitional-justice process. The coalition, which at its launch in November 2013 had about 20 signatory organizations, is focusing its work on three themes: meeting the needs of victims; combatting impunity; and uncovering the truth about past violations. ABA ROLI is assisting the coalition to formulate and advocate for policies that support a victim-centric approach to transitional justice, while Freedom House is training members of civil society organizations on documentation of human-rights violations.
Due to unequal social, cultural and economic inter-ethnic relationships, descent-based slavery persists in northern Mali. Since September 2010, as part of a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor-funded program, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has partnered with leading Malian anti-slavery organization Temedt to combat descent-based slavery through legal aid, legislative reform, and social and economic assistance for former slaves.
Although our work in Mali was affected by the country’s March 2012 coup d’état, ABA ROLI and Temedt have succeeded in raising the profile of descent-based slavery as a human rights issue in Mali. ABA ROLI has trained 120 justice sector actors on how to litigate slavery cases and has helped 18 victims file cases seeking compensation from perpetrators of slavery. Additionally, ABA ROLI worked with anti-slavery activists from Mauritania and Niger to help local stakeholders draft an anti-slavery law. Temedt continues to advocate for the law’s adoption. ABA ROLI and Temedt also provide socioeconomic assistance to victims of slavery and have documented the effect of Mali’s crisis on former slaves.
Malian women face a number of obstacles in realizing their legal rights, from the high cost of accessing legal services to the stigma attached to bringing legal cases against family or community members. In 2011, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) partnered with L’Association des Juristes Maliennes (AJM) to examine obstacles to women’s access to justice and to recommend legal and social reforms to address them. Utilizing ABA ROLI’s Access to Justice Assessment Tool, AJM studied women’s access to justice, focusing on domestic-violence, inheritance and divorce cases. AJM interviewed a wide range of justice sector actors and community members, and ultimately presented its final report and recommendations in Bamako and in Washington D.C. in March 2012. The report is available here.