Servaas Feiertag (CILC) and Jan de Vries (NHC) have completed in February a second mission to Mali, in the context of the Studies of Criminal Justice in Mali and Development of Special Mechanisms to Support the Criminal Chain project.
The project was commissioned by the Malian Ministry of Justice, the Netherlands Embassy in Mali, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is composed of two studies, meant to pave the way for developing a comprehensive strategy on security and the rule of law in Mali. The first study seeks to assess the capacity of personnel in the criminal justice system and will therefore look specifically at the day-to-day functioning of the criminal justice chain. The second study will examine possible mechanisms of support for actors within the criminal chain to deal with the crimes committed during the conflict by all sides, and beyond.
The failing justice system, of which the criminal chain is a part, is seen by many as one of the causes for the conflict in the North of Mali and the political instability in the South. In the meantime, some form of stability has been achieved in Mali, with a new president and Government in office, as well as the presence of the UN mission (MINUSMA) and French troops. The country now finds itself in a transition period and rebuilding the criminal justice system is crucial for addressing crimes committed during the conflict, as well as an important step towards establishing the rule of law.
During the mission, the Dutch experts worked together with Malian consultants and stakeholders on determining the outlook and opportunities for criminal justice reform. Their conclusions and recommendations were shared with the Malian Minister of Justice and with representatives from the justice sector and the donor community.
Thinking back to their previous mission in September 2013, both experts note that progress in Mali’s public sphere is slow, but noticeable. The Malian Government, donors and other stakeholders are aware of the importance of strengthening the Malian criminal justice system in order to achieve lasting national stability. Moreover, it is clear that an growing number of stakeholders are aware and involved in dealing with the different challenges the country is facing.
It is increasingly clear that structural changes will have to take place for the Malian justice system to function adequately. Increasing financial resources, building more buildings and providing various types of training are necessary measures, but not sufficient. Fundamental changes in the structures of the justice system and the mentality and beliefs of people working in the system are equally necessary. Fundamental transformations are needed to restore a measure of public trust in Malian justice and take steps towards effective rule of law.
These and more findings were included in the draft report presented to the Malian Minister of Justice and other representatives of the judiciary. Despite the critical tone of the draft report, it was well received by the attending officials, who expressed commitment to move forward on the basis of these findings.
Next steps in the project will be the validation of the main findings and the submission of the final report. It is the hope of CILC and NHC that the political goodwill shown during this mission will prevail and turn the findings of the report into concrete changes that can benefit Malian society as a whole.