Ivory Coast: Choosing between Justice and Impunity

The Ivory Coast Authorities Facing up to their Commitments

In the report “Ivory Coast: choosing between justice and impunity”[in French] released today, FIDH, MIDH and LIDHO, its member organisations in Ivory Coast, point out that despite the renewal of the Special Investigation and Examination Unit (CSEI), judicial advances against those responsible for human rights violations during the 2010/2011 post-electoral crisis that left more than 3000 dead, remain insufficient.

Among the concerns expressed in the report are : the instigation of a trial specifically targeting pro-Gbagbo supporters that does not address human rights violations; obstacles to investigations currently in process against the FRCI, notably with individuals presumed responsible who have not responded to the summons issued by judicial authorities; and finally, procedures concerning the crimes committed in the West subsequent to the post-electoral crisis now blocked.

One year from the presidential election and as the national reconciliation process does not meet expectations, FIDH, MIDH, and LIDHO call upon the Ivorian authorities to remove all obstacles to impartial and fair judicial proceedings for all those responsible for the post-electoral crisis, including FRCI members.

Three years after legal procedures by the Ivorian judiciary began against the alleged authors of crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis, our organisations provide an updated report on the state of commitments made by Ivorian authorities in the fight against impunity and for national reconciliation. By participating as civil parties alongside 75 victims from all sides in judicial proceedings since 2012, FIDH, LIDHO, and MIDH had decided to support the national justice, which the victims of the crisis have given priority to.

The progress made by the Ivorian justice in the fight against impunity over the last year remains largely insufficient, and, one year from the presidential election, the only trial of the post-electoral crisis currently scheduled will not deal with human rights violations and appears to be very political in nature, said Yacouba Doumbia, MIDH President and a lawyer defending the victims. "The Ivorian authorities must ensure more equitable legal proceedings, including forcing those FRCI summoned to appear in order to respond to the victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation," he added.

The report notably addresses the status of the legal procedures established by the Ivorian judiciary concerning the post-electoral crisis. Cases relating to "crimes against state security" have been exclusively aimed at pro-Gbagbo supporters. On 20 October 2014, the trial of 91 of his supporters, including Simone Gbagbo, was supposed to begin. Despite the fact that it has been indefinitely postponed, our organisations have criticised it for the highly political nature of the offences, and the fact that it does not address the human rights violations, therefore excluding the victims. The second case concerns the proceedings for "blood crimes”, namely the serious violations of human rights committed during the crisis. This again is aimed almost exclusively against pro-Gbagbo supporters, and has not advanced enough to even foresee a trial. The third legal proceeding was initiated following the report of the National Commission of Inquiry (CNE), and is the only judicial proceeding aimed at those FRCI suspected of committing serious crimes during the crisis. In this case, a suspect arrested in 2013 identified senior FRCI leaders of the Western region as alleged perpetrators of crimes committed when taking Duékoué at end of March 2011, who have not yet been heard by the court.

"Several officials, including ComZone Losséni Fofana, known as "Loss", have been implicated in judicial proceedings and should account before the court for their actions during the crisis. The authorities must ensure that FRCI members suspected of such crimes are questioned, respond to judicial summons, and possibly be charged, said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and head of its Litigation Action Group defending the victims. "The commitment to the fight against impunity is true for all, at the risk of validating a two-tier justice system, or a victor’s justice," he added.

These weak advances of justice are echoed those of the national reconciliation process which, despite hearing from 65,000 people, has so far been unable to meet the expectations of the people concerning the causes of the crisis, nor has it offered a comprehensive account of the crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis.

According to Pierre Adjoumani Kouamé, LIDHO President, "the failures of national reconciliation resulting from the poor start of the process, and a lack of willingness of leaders to highlight all those responsible for the crisis, is a missed opportunity for all Ivorians to face their history."

Today, Ivorian authorities are facing an important choice: allow impunity for the most serious crimes to persist, or achieve the political will to deliver an impartial justice to shed light on past crimes and meet victims’ expectations for justice, which is the only means to guarantee the establishment of a genuine peaceful and democratic political system in Ivory Coast, one year from the presidential election.

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