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With crisis deepening in Mali, UN top envoy says ‘all is not lost’

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The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, has supported peace and reconciliation efforts in the country. MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko

The UN Special Representative for Mali told the Security Council on Friday that despite collective efforts, “the reality is that the security situation has deteriorated and the crisis is deepening”, across the northwest African nation. 

“However, all is not lost”, El-Ghassim Wane cautioned.  

He highlighted the Council’s visit to the country last week and the tribute paid to the 243 fallen peacekeepers who’ve been killed serving the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), saying it was “a stark reminder of the sacrifices made over the last eight years in the search for peace.” 

“It further enhanced our resolve to ensure that every one of those lives lost, was not in vain”, he added.  

A challenging situation  

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=UN_News_Centre&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1452384522096496653&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fnews.un.org%2Fen%2Fstory%2F2021%2F10%2F1104422&sessionId=533cefbb3653f5df665e7a2bf58491e31f96caba&siteScreenName=UN_News_Centre&theme=light&widgetsVersion=f001879%3A1634581029404&width=550px According to the Special Representative, the situation in Mali, remains extremely challenging, with insecurity growing in the north, centre, and now also the south.  

Attacks targeting both Malian and international forces, including MINUSMA ‘blue helmets’, have continued. Just this Thursday, the camp in Aguelhok came under indirect mortar and rocket fire.  

The humanitarian situation is also worrying, with 4.7 million people in need of assistance and some 400,000 internally displaced persons. 

For Mr. Wane, it is “needless to reiterate that, in this context, MINUSMA remains crucial in Mali.” 

Increasing needs   

The Special Representative, who also acts as head of MINUSMA, informed that the mission is doing its best to support national authorities.  

Between May and October, the Mission responded to “a myriad of requests” from the Government and the Defence and Security Forces, in terms of rations, fuel, ground and air transport and engineering services.  

Mr. Wane warned, however, that the Mission is currently “overstretched.”  

“All of these activities are being undertaken within existing resources.  It is in this context that the Secretary-General recommended an augmentation to our operation”, he informed.  

Peace negotiations  

The Special Representative believes that the answer to all these challenges “cannot be purely military”, requiring a political response.  

Regarding the 2015 peace agreement, he called the progress “frustratingly slow”, in key aspects such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, institutional reforms and development. 

He also pointed to some “encouraging evolutions” in the last few weeks. According to him, the transition “has reached a critical stage.” 

Following a military coup in August 2020, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) agreed to an 18-month political transition to civilian rule. 

Now, according to Mr. Wane, the transitional authorities believe that improving the security situation and initiating some fundamental reforms “are key to the holding of credible elections and ensuring that the return to constitutional rule and stability is not short lived.”  

‘Barbaric’ attacks, condemned by UN rights experts 

Highlighting insecurity and impunity in Mali, a group of UN human rights experts denounced on Friday a series of “barbaric” attacks against hundreds of people born into what they describe as nothing less than modern-day slavery.  

“These unspeakable abhorrent acts have gone on far too long, committed by some Malian nationals who openly defend descent-based slavery”, the experts said in a statement. 

“The whole world is watching and losing patience. We have condemned this heinous practice many times before. Now the Malian Government must take action, starting with ending impunity for attacks on ‘slaves’”, they added.  

Series of attacks 

The latest attacks happened at the end of September in the Kayes region, some 500 km northwest of the capital Bamako. The area has been the site of seven previous attacks since January, in which one person was killed, at least 77 injured and more than 3,000 “slaves” displaced. 

“The fact that these attacks occur so often in this area shows that descent-based slavery is still socially accepted by some influential politicians, traditional leaders, law enforcement officials and judicial authorities in Mali,” the experts said. 

Some people are born into slavery in Mali because their ancestors were captured into slavery and their families have “belonged” to the slave-owning families – so-called “nobles” – for generations. “Slaves” are compelled to work without pay, can be inherited, and are deprived of basic human rights. 

Noting that Mali does not have a specific law against the ancient practice, the experts said outlawing it, is long overdue.  

“Slavery can no longer be tolerated. Those who continue to support it must understand they cannot attack with impunity people who claim their legitimate rights”, they concluded. 

All independent UN rights experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council, and work on a voluntary basis. They serve in their individual capacity, and are neither UN staff, nor do they receive a salary from the Organisation.   

Fact-finding visit 

Also on Friday, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ilze Brands Kehris, announced she will be paying a six-day visit to the country, starting 1 November. 

She will meet with senior government officials, the Head of the African Union Mission to Mali and the Sahel (MISAHEL), senior officials from the G5-Sahel, members of the diplomatic community, as well as national human rights institution and other entities. 

The Assistant Secretary-General will also hold discussions with the leadership of MINUSMA.  

She will engage with various human rights and civil society organizations, community leaders and youth associations, as well as with religious and traditional authorities.   

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Ukraine: Commission proposes to criminalise the violation of EU sanctions

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The European Commission is today putting forward a proposal to harmonise criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU restrictive measures. While the Russian aggression on Ukraine is ongoing, it is paramount that EU restrictive measures are fully implemented and the violation of those measures does not pay off. The Commission proposal sets out common EU rules, which will make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish violations of restrictive measures in all Member States alike.

Violating EU sanctions is a serious criminal offence

The implementation of EU restrictive measures following the Russian attack on Ukraine shows the complexity of identifying assets owned by oligarchs, who hide them across different jurisdictions through elaborate legal and financial structures. The proposed Directive will establish the same level of penalties in all Member States. Thereby it will close existing legal loopholes and increase the deterrent effect of violating EU sanctions in the first place. The main elements of the proposal include:

  • A list of criminal offences, which violate EU sanctions, such as:
  • making funds or economic resources available to, or for the benefit of, a designated person, entity or body;
  • failing to freeze these funds;
  • enabling the entry of designated people into the territory of a Member State or their transit through the territory of a Member State;
  • entering into transactions with third countries, which are prohibited or restricted by EU restrictive measures;
  • trading in goods or services whose import, export, sale, purchase, transfer, transit or transport is prohibited or restricted;
  • providing financial activities which are prohibited or restricted; or
  • providing other services which are prohibited or restricted, such as legal advisory services, trust services and tax consulting services.
  • Offences will cover circumventing an EU restrictive measure: this means bypassing or attempting to bypass restrictive measures by concealing funds  or concealing the fact that a person is the ultimate owner of funds.
  • Common basic standards for penalties: depending on the offence, the individual person could be liable to a maximum penalty of at least five years in prison; companies could be liable to penalties of no less than 5% of the total worldwide turnover of the legal person (company) in the business year preceding the fining decision.

Next steps

The proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council as part of the ordinary co-legislative procedure.

Background

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the EU has adopted a series of sanctions against Russian and Belarussian individuals and companies. The implementation of EU restrictive measures shows the complexity of identifying assets owned by oligarchs, who hide them across different jurisdictions through complex legal and financial structures. For example, by transferring ownership of sanctioned property to a non-sanctioned third party. They are helped by existing legal loopholes, as the criminal law provisions on breaches of EU sanctions vary across Member States. An inconsistent enforcement of restrictive measures undermines the Union’s ability to speak with one voice.

In May 2022, the Commission proposed to add the violation of EU restrictive measures to the list of EU crimes. At the same time, the Commission proposed new reinforced rules on asset recovery and confiscation, which will also contribute to the implementation of EU restrictive measures. The proposals come in the context of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up by the Commission in March.

Following the adoption on 28 November of the Council Decision identifying the violation of Union restrictive measures as an area of serious crime that meets the criteria set out in Article 83(1) of the TFEU, the Commission is now putting forward this proposal for a Directive on the violation of Union restrictive measures, as a second step.

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Americans are outraged: US has given about $54B of assistance to Ukraine. The EU only 16B

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On a broadcast of the Fox Business Network’s “Kennedy,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) said he will not continue to support aid to Ukraine until the European Union matches the aid already provided by the U.S.

We need a complete audit of the money sent by America. There should be assurances that the country hasn’t had an illegitimate relationship with FTX, and “the millions of dollars that were paid to the Biden family by Ukraine over the years isn’t influencing our foreign policy,” said Tom McClintock. (Through this crypto-exchange FTX the Democrats laundered huge amounts of money that were allocated by the US Congress for Ukraine).

McClintock stated, “I supported the initial assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine is primarily a European security issue. Now, you look at the numbers, the United States has given about $54 billion of assistance to Ukraine. And the EU had only 16 billion.

“So, they’ve got about half of our GDP. But they’ve only given about a third of the assistance that we have. Now, given the fact that’s happening right on their doorstep, not on ours. It seems to me they need to at least match what we’ve already done.

“And then I also believe there needs to be a full audit of where our money has gone and we need assurance that Ukraine’s relationship with FTX is entirely legitimate, as Ukraine contends. And I think the American people would also like to be assured that the millions of dollars that were paid to the Biden family by Ukraine over the years isn’t influencing our foreign policy,” said Tom McClintock.

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Europe accuses US of ‘profiting from war’

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Top European officials are furious with Joe Biden’s administration and now accuse the Americans of making a fortune from the war, while EU countries suffer. “The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons,” one senior official told POLITICO.

Washington announced a $369 billion industrial subsidy scheme to support green industries under the Inflation Reduction Act that Brussels went into full-blown panic mode. “The Inflation Reduction Act has changed everything,” one EU diplomat said. “Is Washington still our ally or not?”

“We are really at a historic juncture,” the senior EU official said, arguing that the double hit of trade disruption from U.S. subsidies and high energy prices risks turning public opinion against both the war effort and the transatlantic alliance. “America needs to realize that public opinion is shifting in many EU countries.”

The biggest point of tension in recent weeks has been Biden’s green subsidies and taxes that Brussels says unfairly tilt trade away from the EU and threaten to destroy European industries. Despite formal objections from Europe, Washington has so far shown no sign of backing down.

As they attempt to reduce their reliance on Russian energy, EU countries are turning to gas from the U.S. instead — but the price Europeans pay is almost four times as high as the same fuel costs in America. Then there’s the likely surge in orders for American-made military kit as European armies run short after sending weapons to Ukraine.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic recognize the risks that the increasingly toxic atmosphere will have for the Western alliance.

“The U.S. is following a domestic agenda, which is regrettably protectionist and discriminates against U.S. allies,” said Tonino Picula, the European Parliament’s lead person on the transatlantic relationship.

Cheaper energy has quickly become a huge competitive advantage for American companies, too. Businesses are planning new investments in the U.S. or even relocating their existing businesses away from Europe to American factories. Just this week, chemical multinational Solvay announced t is choosing the U.S. over Europe for new investments, in the latest of a series of similar announcements from key EU industrial giants.

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