Policymakers with influence over Mali’s transitional justice process, including officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of National Reconciliation and the Development of the North and the Ministry of Defense, participated. The event also gathered several community and civil-society leaders—including delegates from Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao, as well as leaders from Mali’s Transitional Justice Coalition, a group of civil society organizations that ABA ROLI helped establish. The retreat gave officials an opportunity to build relationships with leaders who can help increase northern communities’ engagement in transitional justice mechanisms, including the soon-to-be-created Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
The session began with team-building exercises designed to strengthen relationships between the participants, but the majority of the week was devoted to trainings conducted by national and international experts, including ABA ROLI’s project director in Mali, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations’ Peacekeeping Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and UN Women.
The retreat, which came at a vital time in Mali‘s transitional justice process, allowed participants to assess progress and develop a framework for future activities. Allegations of human rights abuses committed by both rebels and the Malian Army subsequent to the March 2012 coup d’état caused inter-community tensions and led to calls for retribution against perpetrators. To break the cycle of conflict and instability, the government is formulating strategies that can pursue accountability for past crimes and foster national reconciliation. In addition to creating the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in January, the government is also beginning to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses, although its efforts have so far largely focused on the military junta responsible for the 2012 coup.
The February trainings employed case studies from Morocco, South Africa and Togo, and covered core transitional justice concepts, such as national and international prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations, memorialization, and gender and transitional justice. On the final day, participants drafted a set of recommendations on priority steps for a meaningful transitional justice process in Mali.
Since the retreat, participants have been playing an increasing role in the transitional justice process. At a recent hearing of the national assembly’s Law Commission, a member of the Ministry of Justice who took part in the retreat helped to prepare the minister of justice’s testimony. Another participant organized a government-led dialogue about the causes of conflict and marginalization in northern Mali, while a third has introduced a transitional justice module to be taught in the compulsory curriculum for new recruits with the Ministry of Defense.
ABA ROLI’s transitional justice programs in Mali are supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
To learn more about our work in Mali, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].