Ivory Coast: For a genuinely operational Special Investigation Unit

Press release
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Five months after the renewal of the Special Investigation and Examination Unit (Cellule spéciale d’enquête et d’instruction - CSEI) charged with investigating crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis in Ivory Coast, no implementing decree has yet been adopted to render the Unit genuinely operational. A functional investigations unit is essential to fighting impunity in Ivory Coast. The failure to render the Unit effective has led a number of Ivorian and international human rights and victim support organisations call on the Ivorian authorities to enable the CSEI to carry out its mandate.

The Special Investigation Unit was established in 2011 to direct judicial proceedings concerning crimes committed during the post-election crisis, which left at least 3,000 people dead. Although initially threatened with closure, its mandate was renewed by presidential decree on 30 December 2013. This decision was taken following intense mobilisation by Ivorian and international human rights organisations seeking to ensure that this crucial mechanism could continue its work to combat impunity in Ivory Coast.

We were among the first to defend this highly important unit and to welcome its renewal, as it embodies a possible response to the expectations of those victims who continue to wait for justice to be done. These expectations are great, given the high number of human rights violations committed during this period", said Patrick Baudouin, lawyer for the victims and FIDH Honorary President.

However, our organisations are now deeply concerned about the fact that following this renewal, implementing decrees for the operational functioning of the CSEI have not been adopted. This has helped to create delays in procedure and in affecting the proper administration of justice. For example, the administrative secretariat provided for in Article 10 of the Presidential Decree has not yet been established, nor has the manager responsible for the financial management of the Unit (art. 17), or allowances for judges (art. 14). Further, the Presidential Decree provides that the judges assigned to the CSEI will be appointed by a Ministerial decree (art. 11), though this still has not been issued.

"It is hard to understand why the Special Investigation Unit, put forward as a demonstration of the Ivorian government’s willingness to fight impunity, is now in a situation of uncertainty that runs counter to the interests of victims. This issue must be resolved to ensure that the current proceedings can progress rapidly, so that justice can be provided in a timely manner, said Bamba Sindou, RAIDH coordinator.

Indeed, our organisations express their concerns about the length of proceedings, occasioned by a lack of support from judicial and political authorities for the justice process underway and by a persistent imbalance in proceedings. Only trials concerning violations of state security are possible under current instructions and only one member of the FRCI (Republican Forces of Ivory Coast) soldier has so far been prosecuted despite the numerous human rights abuses attributable to the FRCI in the post-electoral crisis, as documented in several national and international investigation reports, starting with that of the National Investigation Commission (CNE) of 2012.

"The credibility of the justice system rests on its ability to remain impartial, regardless of the political context and election issue. If it is to succeed, it must be able to prosecute the authors of crimes committed during the crisis, regardless of rank or political affiliation, said Param- Preet Sing, senior Human Rights Watch lawyer.

During the Ivory Coast’s recent Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the fight against impunity was cited by Mamadou Coulibaly Gnenema, the Ivorian Minister of Justice,, by as among measures "taken 100%" by the Ivorian government through cooperation with the ICC and the ratification of the Rome Statute. Although our organisations consider these two factors to constitute significant progress, it is important to remember that the fight against impunity in Ivory Coast is however very much in its early stages.

Finally, as the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission commences its hearing of victims and its investigation phase after two years of activity, our organisations call for the publication of its interim report, recalling the need for the articulation of both justice and reconciliation.

"The work of reconciliation is essential in Ivory Cost and we call upon the country to continue in this direction. To this end, the right to justice possessed by the victims of serious human rights violations must be recognised through fair and equitable judicial procedures because this is an inalienable principle, said Mafelina Dosso, acting president of the OFACI .

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