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African nations want UN expert to boost Mali rights

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

African countries on Thursday tabled a resolution demanding that the UN appoint an expert to investigate and help improve the human rights situation in war-torn Mali.

The UN should give an independent expert a one-year mandate "to help the Malian government" protect and promote human rights in the country, said the draft resolution, presented by Gabon to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on behalf of the African group of nations.

The text, which was published on the council's website, also calls on the Malian government "to guarantee freedom of expression and to as quickly as possible organise free and transparent elections."

The transition government in place in Bamako for the past year has promised the country will hold elections in July.

In their resolution, the African countries ask that all armies and armed groups in Mali respect international law, and urged "an immediate halt to all human rights violations and acts of violence."

The resolution also condemns all abuses carried out in the country, especially in the north by the armed groups that seized the vast stretch of land last April.

French forces launched a surprise intervention on January 11 in a bid to stop Al Qaeda-linked fighters there from moving southward and threatening the capital Bamako.

Islamist groups have now largely been driven out of the main cities in the north and are waging a guerrilla war against French, Malian and other troops seeking to help the government assert its control over the entire territory.

Thursday's resolution meanwhile made no reference to allegations put forward earlier this week by the UN's second in command on human rights that Malian soldiers have carried out retaliation attacks against ethnic groups suspected of sympathising with the rebels.

The resolution does request though that the UN's rights chief, Navi Pillay, present a report on the situation in Mali at the next session of the Human Rights Council, which will take place in May and June.

Diplomats will decide whether to pass the resolution at the end of the current council session, which wraps up on March 22.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130314/african-nations-want-un-expert-boost-mali-rights