posted on Tue 5 Sep 2017 4:34 PM
Security Council Establishes a Mali Sanctions Regime

Earlier today (5 September), the Council adopted resolution 2374 establishing a targeted sanctions regime on Mali. The resolution was drafted by France and two rounds of negotiations were held over the last ten days, although the idea of such a draft had been discussed informally since at least the beginning of the year. The resolution, which was adopted unanimously, imposes a travel ban and assets freeze on individuals and entities engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Mali. It establishes a Sanctions Committee on Mali and requests the Secretary-General to create, for an initial period of thirteen months, a panel of experts to support the Committee’s work. The designation criteria outlined in the resolution include:

• engaging in hostilities in violation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali;

• taking actions that obstruct, including through prolonged delay, or threaten the implementation of the Agreement;

• acting for or on behalf of, or at the direction of or otherwise supporting or financing, those violating the Agreement by engaging in hostilities or obstructing its implementation, including through proceeds from organised crime;

• engaging in planning, directing, sponsoring, or conducting attacks against: the various entities referenced in the Agreement, including local, regional and state institutions, joint patrols and the Malian Security and Defense forces; UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) peacekeepers and other UN and associated personnel, including members of the Panel of Experts; and international security presences, including the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel, EU Missions and French forces;

• obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Mali, or access to, or distribution of, humanitarian assistance in Mali;

• planning, directing, or committing acts in Mali that violate international human rights law or international humanitarian law, as applicable, or that constitute human rights abuses or violations; or

• using or recruiting children in violation of applicable international law, in the context of the armed conflict in Mali.

The 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali included in its article 54 language inviting the Security Council to adopt measures against those undermining the implementation of the Agreement and the pursuit of its objectives. While the Council had repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions in this context since the adoption of resolution 2227 renewing MINUSMA’s mandate in June 2015, it did not follow through on this threat, initially believing that the threat alone could exert pressure on the parties to change their behaviour. In his 30 December 2016 report (S/2016/1137), the Secretary-General called on the Council to consider the imposition of targeted sanctions against those obstructing the implementation of the Agreement.

Despite the penholder’s readiness to table such resolution in early 2017, it became apparent that several Council members would not be on board unless the acquiescence of the government for such a sanctions regime was formally conveyed to the Council. On 9 August, the government of Mali sent a letter to Egypt, in its capacity as President of the Council for the month, requesting the establishment of a sanctions regime, particularly in light of repeated ceasefire violations by armed groups in northern Mali.

The letter appears to have paved the way for a smooth negotiation process. Council members spent most of the time in negotiations discussing the designation criteria, particularly with regard to issues such as how to refer to inaction as a way of undermining the Agreement’s implementation and the different forms of organised crime financially contributing to obstruction, as well as determining the institutions against which attacks would potentially trigger designations.

Russia, in its explanation of vote today, expressed its support for the resolution, although it noted its concern about the usefulness of sanctions, and the risk of antagonising the parties to the conflict. In consultations on 24 August under “any other business,” Russia warned that while it was important to respond to the request of the Malian government, it is only one of the parties to the Agreement, along with the Coordination and Platform coalitions of armed groups.

It seems that the objective of Council members in adopting resolution 2374 is to further pressure the parties to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Agreement. The increased scrutiny that will likely follow the establishment of the Sanctions Committee and the panel of experts appears to be designed to exert this pressure.