UN calls for calm as dozens injured in Mali opposition protest

Malian riot police clash with opposition supporters who had planned to march on a street in Bamako, Mali June 2, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 03 June 2018
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UN calls for calm as dozens injured in Mali opposition protest

  • The opposition said some 30 people were hospitalized after security forces fired “live ammunition”

BAMAKO: The UN has called for calm in Mali after dozens of people were hurt during banned opposition protests in Bamako, sparking calls for the prime minister to resign two months ahead of a presidential election.
The opposition said some 30 people were hospitalized — including prominent opposition figure Etienne Fabaka Sissoko who was left “in a coma” — after security forces fired “live ammunition” at protesters on Saturday.
The government rejected the claims outright.
“It is absolutely false to say that shots were fired using live ammunition,” a source close to the security ministry told AFP.
Earlier Sunday, the ministry said the security forces were bound by three words — “professionalism, courtesy and firmness” and that the police had acted to maintain public order.
It denounced the protesters for having injured a policeman in the head.
A “transparency” rally outside the party headquarters of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita attracted several hundred people.
Police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators with batons, according to an AFP reporter at the scene. Clashes also took place in other locations.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who visited Mali last week, called late Saturday for “calm and restraint by all parties.”
“(He) calls on the Malian government to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights and freedom of expression to peaceful demonstrations, including in the context of the ongoing state of emergency,” a UN statement said.
Mali is one of the so-called “G5 Sahel” states — along with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger — which have launched joint operations against militant groups.
Most protests are banned as the nation has lived under a near-constant state of emergency since an attack on a hotel in Bamako in November 2015 left 20 people dead.
“In a dozen places, unarmed protesters were attacked with tear gas and clubs,” the office of opposition presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse said in a statement.
“The headquarters of the ADP (Alliance for Democracy and Progress) was attacked by police special forces, who threw grenades. The prime minister’s security services fired live ammunition at protesters gathered” in front of the building, the statement charged.
“Three opposition leaders were violently beaten on the head with clubs and batons,” it added.
“The intention of the government was clear: to terrorize the opposition and all democratic forces.”
The statement also called for “the resignation of the prime minister.”
The demonstrations come ahead of July 29 elections in which Mali President Keita, 73, will face more than a dozen challengers.
The opposition has called for equal access to public radio and television for campaigning.
“The UN secretary-general regrets the government-imposed ban on the demonstrations by opposition parties,” the UN said.
“(He) urges political actors and the civil society to favor dialogue in order to maintain an environment conducive to the holding of credible and transparent elections.”
Opposition leaders have called for new demonstrations next Friday.


Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

Updated 16 July 2019
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Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

  • Iceland spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the Philippines' deadly anti-drug crackdown
  • Philippine police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016.

MANILA: The Philippine president is “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, which spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the thousands of deaths of suspects under his anti-drug crackdown.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters late Monday that the Iceland-initiated resolution which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in a vote last week in Geneva showed “how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs.”
Panelo says President Rodrigo Duterte “is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland” for initiating the “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan” resolution.
Human rights groups, however, have lauded the resolution as crucial to helping end the drug killings and bringing perpetrators to justice.
The Philippines’ highest-ranking lawmaker said on Monday a UN resolution to probe the country’s bloody war on drugs should be ignored, and its chief backer Iceland be investigated instead for human rights abuses in allowing abortion.
“They have more unborn babies that they have aborted or killed. There are more killings in abortion than the drug pushers who are fighting the police,” Senate President Vicente Sotto told ANC news channel.
The Nordic nation lacks moral grounds to lecture the Philippines on human rights, Sotto said. “So we should disregard that resolution.”
His remarks are the latest in a series of comments from lawmakers urging the government to not cooperate after the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted Iceland’s resolution to investigate thousands of deaths under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign.
Police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016. Critics and rights group said authorities summarily execute suspects, which the police deny.
“The criminals can fight back, the babies cannot. What human rights are they talking about?” Sotto said, adding that drug dealers that fight back and destroy families lose their human rights.
His comments about abortion echoed those made by incoming Senator Imee Marcos, the daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Rights groups, which hailed the UN vote as a step toward accountability, point out that the bloody anti-narcotics campaign is marked by systematic cover-ups, planted evidence and impunity.
The president’s spokesman on Monday warned countries not to meddle with the state’s affairs.
“All incidents in the war on drugs are tallied, recorded. All they have to do is ask us, not to pre-judge us,” presidential spokesman Spokesman Panelo told a regular news conference. “It behoves them to render respect to a sovereign state.”
Duterte on Friday mocked Iceland as an ice-eating nation without understanding of his country’s problems.