On Friday 30 September 2022, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) signed the Deed of Commitment on the Protection of Medical Care in Armed Conflict at a closed ceremony convened by Geneva Call under the auspices of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.
In the document, CMA formally pledged to respect international humanitarian norms insisting on the protection of “health care personnel, facilities and medical transports, and the wounded and sick,” and to adhere to “the principles of medical ethics.”
CMA was created in 2014 as a coalition of political-military movements composed of National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), present in Mali in the regions of Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, Taoudeni, and Ménaka. In 2015, CMA became signatory to the peace and reconciliation accord in Algiers with the Malian government.
The signing of the Deed of Commitment on the Protection of Medical Care in Armed Conflict marks a milestone in Geneva Call’s humanitarian dialogue with CMA initiated in Mali since 2018.
Geneva Call’s General Director Alain Délétroz was joined at the signing ceremony by two CMA representatives: Attaye Ag Mohamed, Member of the Executive Board in charge of legal and human rights issues and heads the CMA delegation within the Monitoring Committee of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali signed in 2015, and Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadan, CMA member of the steering committee and of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) National Commission for the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali resulting from the Algiers Process.
At the ceremony, Délétroz praised CMA’s commitment recalling the paramount importance of protecting health care in situation of armed conflicts. “Attacks on hospitals, medical transport and health workers have increased significantly in conflict zones in recent years, paralyzing emergency services and disrupting the local population – with devastating impacts on the lives of staff and patients, both civilians and wounded combatants targeted because they are among the most vulnerable” said Délétroz. “Unfortunately, Mali is not spared from this trend. The deterioration of the security situation has also been reflected in increased difficulties for populations to access health care centers and health workers being targeted on a regular basis,” said Délétroz.
Despite its “diversity of opinion on certain social issues, CMA could agree on a document that comprises the main themes of international humanitarian law,” Attaye Ag Mohamed said, adding that the coalition benefited from Geneva Call’s support and expertise. “This has included close work to revise our code of military conduct, which reflects our commitment to placing respect for IHL standards at the center of our actions,” said Attaye Ag Mohamed.
“The signing of this Deed of Commitment thus signals a new phase,” he said. “It is up to all of us to put it into widespread use in the field through awareness-raising and training on this important topic. This will be at the core of the action plan that we have established together”.
Geneva Call remains concerned about the situation of many civilians affected by the conflict. For Délétroz, this first Deed of Commitment signature “is also a commitment” for Geneva Call. That of continuing to accompany CMA in its efforts to apply the steps agreed upon in an implementation plan developed jointly with the country team. For only a precise and sustained implementation will allow the Deeds of Commitment to take on their full meaning and have an impact on civilians who deserve better protection. “We also hope that this signature can serve as an encouragement to all Malian stakeholders who have a role and responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians,” said Délétroz.
The Canton of Geneva hosted the signing ceremony as Custodian of Geneva Call’s Deeds of Commitment. Beatrice Ferrari, the Canton of Geneva’s director of international affairs, said the document “officially expresses a commitment to the responsibility to protect people’s health” and it was fitting that it was being signed in a historic room with a strong “humanitarian tradition” from previous agreements.
Moussa Touré, Geneva Call’s country director in Mali, called this first Deed of Commitment “a major step forward” that “really marks the start of a concrete commitment.”
“Civilian populations are really caught in the middle,” he said. “Medical missions are generally the target of attacks. Recently, we recorded an ambulance in the Sikasso region, in the south of the country, which was attacked. There are also more and more incidents that are aimed at the medical missions.”
Touré said Geneva Call uses international humanitarian norms to remind the non-governmental parties to a conflict that they have an obligation to protect health care and allow access for humanitarian workers and the civilian population.
Once the groups become more aware of their obligations, he said, “they can be led to become more involved and to mobilize better in order not only to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations that specialize in this field, but also to promote access to civilian populations in relation to health care.”