Ivory Coast / post-electoral crisis: Special Investigation Unit term extended

Press release
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At the end of the Council of Ministers meeting of 8 January 2014, the government announced the creation, by presidential decree, of a permanent Special Investigation and Examination Unit (Cellule spéciale d’enquête et d’instruction - CSEI) to replace the Special Investigation Unit (Cellule spéciale d’enquête - CSE) that was in charge of the judicial proceedings connected to the post-electoral crisis. FIDH, MIDH and LIDHO, which filed as civil parties alongside 75 victims in the judicial proceedings concerning the post-electoral crisis, welcome with this very important decision to continue the investigation into crimes committed by all parties during the 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis. This decision was taken following the intense mobilisation of our organisations to make it possible for this highly important unit to continue its work in favour of the fight against impunity in Ivory Coast.

«  Extending the work of this Unit was essential to the continuation of investigations on the post-electoral crisis, and now that the CSEI no longer has to be extended on a yearly basis, the investigating judges will be able to work on the long term to complete the proceedings launched against identified suspects, regardless of their political side  » said Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice President.

On 30 December 2013 President Alassane Ouattara signed Decree no. 2013-93 to create the Special Investigation and Examination Unit (CSEI) to replace the Special Investigation Unit (CSE) that was established in June 2011 in order to launch investigations and judicial proceedings connected to the crimes committed during the post-electoral period. The organisation described in this decree is much like that of the former CSE, with three seconded investigating judges detached, officers from the judicial police force and a secretariat attached to the CSEI which is now supervised by the Public Prosecutor in Abidjan. The main innovation is that the mandate is no longer limited in time. Although the number of judicial police officers assigned to the Unit is not specified in the decree, our organisations hope that there will be a sufficient number to carry on with investigations, that the Unit’s investigators have already taken to some depth since the CSE was created.

«  Now, three months after the publication of our last report, though the judiciary is still too unilateral, the renewal of the Special Investigation Unit is a positive sign. This reflects one of our main recommendations and an essential condition to ensure more balanced judicial proceedings, especially with regard to FRCI whose members were guilty of serious crimes during the crisis. » said Patrick Baudouin, Head of the FIDH Legal Action Group and a lawyer for the victims.

The post-electoral crisis in Ivory Coast was started when ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to recognise the victory of Alassane Ouattara in the November 2010 presidential election. Until April 2011 it pitted the Forces de défense et de sécurité (FDS) and the Jeunes patriotes pro-Ggabo on the one hand against the pro-Ouattara Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) on the other. Fighting and violence caused somewhere between 3000 and 5000 deaths. After numerous fact-finding missions that were started in February 2011, FIDH, MIDH and LIDHO filed as plaintiffs in 2012 in the Ivorian judicial proceedings together with 75 victims from all sides.

«  For the victims of the crisis who are waiting for justice to be done, this is an important message that sustains their hope that those responsible for the serious crimes committed during the crisis will be judged », said Pierre Adjoumani Kouame, LIDHO President. « This good news needs to be followed through by strong legal actions and we hope that significant progress will be achieved in 2014 so that fair trials may be held within a reasonable period of time » , said Yacouba Doumbia, MIDH President and a lawyer for the victims.

In October 2013, two years after the judicial proceedings launched by the Ivorian courts to judge the perpetrators of the post-electoral crimes, FIDH, LIDHO and MIDH published a report entitled: “The fight against impunity at a crossroad”which made a critical assessment of the process underway to fight impunity. The report indicated that despite some measures of progress, the process was mainly blocked by the fragmentation of judicial proceedings, by the uneven state of progress in the investigations underway and by the lack of judicial proceedings against the pro-Ouattara camp.

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