Mali: UN Expert Urges Mali to Step Up Efforts to Find and Free Opposition Leader

Mali Constitutional Court (file photo)

Geneva — The UN expert on human rights in Mali today called on that West African country to step up efforts to find and free abducted opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé, who was abducted more than four months ago, on 25 March.

"It is disturbing that the fate of Mr. Cissé remains a mystery four months after his abduction," said Alioune Tine, independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali. "I join the appeal of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has asked the Malian authorities to step up their efforts to get him released."

Cissé's abduction, reportedly by violent extremist groups, while campaigning in his stronghold of Niafunké in the Timbuktu region, plunged the country into fresh turmoil.

"I welcome the fact that during the month of April the authorities set up a crisis cell to coordinate efforts to free Mr. Cissé," said Tine. "However, in accordance with its international obligations, Mali must intensify its efforts to search for and locate Mr. Cissé as well as clarify his fate and whereabouts in order to obtain his release as soon as possible."

Abductions remain a major concern in Mali, particularly in the Timbuktu region where the opposition leader was kidnapped. From the beginning of this year until 21 July, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali documented at least 99 abductions by non-state actors in different parts of the country.

"I urge Malian authorities, with the help of the international community, to take all necessary measures to strengthen the protection of civilians, including against abductions, and to obtain as soon as possible the release of other people who remain to this day in the hands of their captors," Tine said. He also called for those responsible for abductions to be held accountable.

He also appealed to Malians to end months of instability. "I call on the daughters and sons of Mali to draw from the deep roots of their culture and their history the suitable solutions to overcome together through dialogue and in peace this serious crisis which threatens their country and the sub-region," he said.

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