Accountability for Crimes and Protection of Human Rights in Cote d’Ivoire

Human Rights Watch in Cote d’Ivoire

Amid a continuing climate of fear, violence against people based on their ethnic or religious background has taken on an explicitly political character. Those committing these crimes must be held accountable.

The government should immediately halt forced evictions and pass legislation protecting occupants of protected forests from arbitrary evictions. It should also investigate and prosecute SODEFOR officers accused of physical abuse and extortion.

Cote d’Ivoire is a democratic republic.

Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa producer and has one of the fastest economic growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa. In the past, cocoa production and foreign investment have helped the country overcome poverty and develop into a middle-income state.

Political stability and strong economic growth provide a foundation for gradual improvements in the rule of law and fulfillment of human rights. A new constitution removes a divisive nationality clause that contributed to more than a decade of violence and conflict.

However, the government’s August 2018 amnesty for 800 people accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes during the post-election crisis remains unsatisfactory. It excludes people currently on trial before the ICC and members of the military or armed groups, whose worst crimes must not be allowed to go unpunished. The amnesty has also hampered efforts to reform the Special Investigative and Examination Cell. This has undermined victims’ access to justice and accountability. In addition, ongoing land conflicts between migrant and indigenous communities highlight the continuing challenges to reconciliation and cohesion in Cote d’Ivoire.

It is a member of the United Nations.

The government of Cote d’Ivoire took steps in 2016 to move away from the political crises that wracked the country for more than a decade. The new constitution removed a divisive nationality clause, and President Alassane Ouattara encouraged political dialogue. However, indiscipline in the army and ongoing corruption remained major challenges to stability.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is investigating the 2010-2011 postelection violence that left more than 3,000 people dead. But she has not charged anyone loyal to Simone Gbagbo, who still controls many of the country’s wealthiest assets. Local elections in October were largely peaceful, although pockets of violence between opposition and government supporters in rural areas marred the results.

The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) ended its mandate on 30 June 2017. The UN family remains committed to supporting the Government, ensuring that hard-won peace is sustained and that all citizens can enjoy their full rights. The country remains at risk from regional extremist groups.

It is a member of the African Union.

The African Union (AU) is an intergovernmental organization that brings together states from across the continent to promote economic integration and political and social cooperation. Its members include all the countries of Africa except Morocco, the Canary Islands and the islands of the plazas de soberania of Spain, and France (Mayotte, Reunion and Saint Helena). The African Union has a number of organs, including the Assembly of Heads of State and Government; the Pan-African Parliament; the African Court of Justice; three envisaged financial institutions; and various specialized technical committees.

Although the government made some progress in tackling impunity, violence between rival political factions has persisted in Cote d’Ivoire. Land conflicts continue to fuel tensions, particularly in western Côte d’Ivoire. The resumption of repatriation of refugees from Liberia in December 2015 increased the competition for land in that region, while recurrent evictions of cocoa farmers from protected forests continue to have negative impacts on livelihoods. Moreover, commanders allegedly responsible for severe human rights abuses remain in positions of authority within the armed forces.

It is a member of the International Criminal Court.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent, treaty-based international criminal tribunal that investigates and prosecutes individuals responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and violations of the laws or customs of war. Its judges are elected to serve nine-year terms. The court is financed by voluntary contributions from member states, which are subject to review and reform.

Cote d’Ivoire’s judiciary is generally independent in ordinary criminal cases, but interference by the executive and corruption undermine judicial independence. Government officials have publicly expressed concerns that the ICC’s prosecution of former president Laurent Gbagbo and his youth minister, Charles Ble Goude, could destabilize the country.

Cote d’Ivoire lacks a fully functioning prison system, and arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of prisoners persist. The government should stop interfering in political cases to ensure that all defendants receive a fair trial. It should also release anyone arbitrarily arrested on grounds of their political affiliation. The government should also speed up implementation of a 1998 land law to reduce communal conflicts.

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