Mali says it will defy a United Nations Security Council call for it to allow freedom of movement for peacekeepers to investigate human rights abuses.
The council extended a nine-year-old UN peacekeeping operation – known as MINUSMA – for another 12 months on Wednesday with 13 votes in favour, while Russia and China objected to the rights mandate of the mission and abstained.
Mali’s military took power in a 2020 coup and has cut ties with former colonial power France as a Russian private military contractor, Wagner Group, has stepped in to help with a decade-long battle against armed groups.
MINUSMA says it has documented 320 rights violations by Mali’s military between January and March.
Refugees at the M’bera refugee camp in nearby Mauritania have told Al Jazeera that Malian soldiers have stepped up abuses in recent months, along with white soldiers believed to be Russians.
“Mali is not in a position to guarantee the freedom of movement for MINUSMA’s inquiries without prior agreement of the government,” Mali’s UN ambassador Issa Konfourou told the council. “Mali does not intend to comply with these provisions despite them being adopted by the Security Council.”
He said Mali was responsible for investigating any human rights violations.
“MINUSMA must be able to get access to the areas affected in order to carry out its mandate and to publish quarterly reports on human rights. The perpetrators of violations must be brought to justice,” said French UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere.
The most notable case being investigated by MINUSMA is in the town of Moura, where witnesses and rights groups say the Malian army accompanied by white fighters killed hundreds of civilians they suspected of being rebels.
Russia’s Deputy UN ambassador Anna Evstigneeva described the human rights language in the resolution adopted on Wednesday as “intrusive,” adding that it “will not help to ensure that the Malians enjoy their sovereign right to protect their own citizens and to investigate any incidents”.