Tannock report stresses need for human-rights element to Sahel strategy

24-Sep-2013 @ 17:0

Charles Tannock Charles Tannock

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Human rights abuses, sexual violence and humanitarian crisis across the Sahel region of Africa are highlighted today in a Conservative MEP's hard-hitting report.

Tannock, Conservative spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, told fellow MEPs that a coherent strategy was needed to tackle the region's many desperate problems including radicalisation, child labour and child conscription, as well as arms, drugs and people-trafficking.

The London MEP's report on the plight of the Sahel, encompassing Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, was adopted today by a vote of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

Dr Tannock told the committee: "The most pressing part of the report deals, naturally, with the grave disaster witnessed over the past 18 months in Mali, a West African country which had previously seen political stability and relative peace for a number of years. Although we can be cautiously optimistic that the worst of the crisis is over, it is not yet finished, with several hundreds of thousands of refugees waiting to return home.

"But reconciliation will not work without justice where it is due: Mali must be seen as a prototype for the success of judicial institutions and the rule of law. Too often in the Sahel region, war crimes and crimes against humanity have been met with institutional impunity."

He said a coherent strategy across the Sahel must combines an awareness of human rights with the imperative of boosting security, tackling radicalization, and clamping down on the trafficking of people, arms and drugs - particularly with regard to the so-called trafficking superhighway bisecting the region east-west and south-north.

Above all, he said, the strategy must be about improving governance and the accountability and legitimacy of state and regional institutions. The report advocates the decentralisation of power and boosting the role of civil society.

Dr Tannock said: "I have addressed the situation of women, children and minorities, including child labour, forced marriage and, especially in Mauritania, the issue of slavery, though of course this is extremely contentious and vigorously disputed by the Mauritanian authorities.

"The over-riding theme of the report must be for the EU to work with local actors to focus on security, stability and human rights in synthesis. The EU already has a training mission in Mali, and a capacity-building mission in Niger, but human rights are markedly absent from the EU Sahel strategy. This is an area where we can do more to help, and I hope that the report makes some contribution to doing so."

The Tannock report is also the first European Parliament report to focus on the situation of human rights in Western Sahara, and won plaudits from across the political spectrum for its fair treatment of this extremely sensitive and disputed issue. Dr Tannock added: "If we can bring different voices together on Western Sahara and positively influence the situation there in some small way, then I hope the report can be considered a success."

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