German Chancellor Angela Merkel should stress the urgent need for key rights reforms during her visits to Mali, Niger, and Ethiopia. Between October 9 and 11, 2016, Chancellor Merkel will meet officials in each country to discuss migration to Europe, as well as German support for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
“Any serious discussion of migration from Africa to Europe needs to focus on the grave human rights violations and governance concerns at home that force people to flee their countries,” said Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch. “Ethiopia and Mali are key examples of countries where serious crimes by the security forces and lack of accountability are fueling refugee flows, and Germany’s priority should be to end these abuses.”
Merkel’s visit comes against the backdrop of intensified European Union efforts to secure migration cooperation agreements with origin and transit countries in Africa. A new “partnership framework” for relations with these countries, announced in June, signaled the EU’s intention to place migration control at the core of its foreign policy and development aid.
There is a risk that this approach will create an incentive for countries to engage in abusive policies to block departures or restrict freedom of movement, with a devastating impact on the ability of asylum seekers to reach places of genuine safety and of individuals to exercise their right to leave their own country.
In Mali, Chancellor Merkel should raise concerns over government failure to curb and address security force abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrests, and executions, Human Rights Watch said. The abuses have been regular features during and since the 2012-2013 armed conflict in Mali and have contributed to the radicalization of some Malian youth. Merkel should also raise concerns over government corruption and urge the government to provide more support for the country’s weak rule of law institutions, including the judiciary.
German participation in the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA) should bolster efforts by the Malian government to protect civilians from the rampant banditry and lawlessness in large areas of the country.
In Ethiopia, Chancellor Merkel will attend the opening of an African Union building. While there, she should raise with the government the urgent need to end the use of excessive force by security forces against protesters, and to release thousands of protesters who have been arbitrarily detained over the past year. She should express support for a credible, international investigation into the deaths of more than 500 protesters. Merkel should also press the government to lift government restrictions on media reporting and access to the internet and social media.
Tensions and public frustration over security force killings and other abuses against protesters in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region, have spread to other parts of the country in recent months and risk spiraling into a wider crisis if the Ethiopian government does not change course, Human Rights Watch said.
“Chancellor Merkel has an important opportunity to address some of the root causes of migration: unchecked rights abuses and poor governance in countries like Ethiopia and Mali,” Michalski said. “Germany’s long-term partnerships, including security cooperation in both countries, can only benefit from progress on the core human rights concerns.”