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Ministerial Meeting on the G5 Sahel Joint Force

Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
on the Establishment of the human rights compliance framework

28 March 2019

Distinguished Ministers,
Excellencies,

I thank France and Burkina Faso for organizing today’s meeting.

Regional peace operations and ad hoc sub-regional counterterrorism operations are viewed as an effective tool in efforts to address violent extremism. However, military operations to counter terrorism, which often require an offensive posture, can pose a higher risk of harm to civilians. Violations of human rights and humanitarian law that may occur during such operations can lead to more violence and radicalization, and undermine the operation’s goal of countering terrorism.

Efforts in military operations to mitigate civilian harm through human rights and international humanitarian law require compliance frameworks. I welcome the Security Council’s increasing agreement that support to regional peace operations should be accompanied by such frameworks. As the Secretary-General said to the Human Rights Council last month, “We have proven that it is only possible to fight terrorism successfully when human rights are upheld.”

The compliance framework for the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel, as designed by my Office, translates international legal obligations into an operational risk reduction framework tailored to the specific realities and modus operandi of counterterrorism operations. It comprises seven measures and mechanisms. Independent United Nations monitoring and reporting, technical support and dialogue with the Force accompanies the framework.

The framework´s implementation requires concerted efforts from national authorities, the United Nations, international forces on the ground, together with civil society and other relevant actors. In the Sahel, the European Union plays an important technical role through the European Union training and capacity building missions (EUTM and EUCAP).

Excellencies,

The framework was established further to a tripartite technical arrangement among the G5 Sahel countries, the European Union and the United Nations, and rolled out with the European Union’s financial support. Since its launch one year ago, there has been progress on training measures and the adoption of rules and procedures relevant to the Joint Force. We also have seen progress on accountability.

Together, OHCHR, the Joint Force and Permanent Secretariat of the G5 Sahel, and national army commands have laid the foundation for a common understanding of challenges and solutions, and developed an implementation plan.
In 2018, good practices and challenges were identified in a review of the first six Joint Force operations. Among these was finalizing a status of forces’ agreement. We provided technical advice throughout this review.

Also with the Joint Force, we developed a clear standard operating procedure on the capture, retention, and transfer or release of adults and children captured and / or detained in their operations.

OHCHR, the International Institute of Humanitarian Law and technical partners, designed and delivered a scenario-based pilot course on human rights and international humanitarian law for senior officers of the Joint Force and G5 Sahel Army Command. The Sahel Defence College in Mauritania will roll-out this course and we will support training of trainers in 2019.

The reality on the ground has begun to change. Through its progressive acknowledgment of the need for accountability, the Joint Force is contributing to communities’ access to justice; an essential step in confidence building.

For example, in 2018, the human rights component of MINUSMA investigated the extrajudicial killing of 12 civilians allegedly involving Malian elements of the Joint Force and supported Malian authorities and the Joint Force to investigate the allegations. I acknowledge the investigation of the incident and the measures adopted by the Malian authorities.

The Joint Force has also developed an ad hoc practice of self-monitoring and informing OHCHR and MINUSMA of allegations of violations or capture of individuals by its troops, giving rise to national investigations of some incidents.

While full accountability for such cases has not yet been achieved, the conduct of investigations into such incidents may become a deterrent. I commend General Hanana Ould Sidi and other actors responsible for these efforts and we look forward to the conclusion of all investigations.

Excellencies,

The measures and mechanisms of the framework can reduce the risk of harm to civilians and enhance the professionalism and effectiveness of security forces involved in counterterrorism.

These two objectives are linked, as the Security Council emphasized in resolution 2423 that “adherence to the compliance framework is critical in ensuring the required trust among the populations, and thus the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel.”

I look forward to the continued support of the Security Council and Burkina Faso, as the current holder of the G5 Sahel Presidency, to the achievement of full operationalization of the compliance framework.

Thank you.