Côte d’Ivoire: Dignity, Justice and reconciliation must be a priority after the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo.

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations members in Ivory Coast, the Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’Homme (LIDHO) and the Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains (MIDH), call upon President Alassane Ouattara to treat the former President Laurent Gbagbo fairly and with dignity; to guarantee an impartial trial for all perpetrators of crimes committed in Ivory Coast and to lead, as he announced, the reconciliation of all Ivorians.

The refusal of the candidate Laurent Gbagbo to step down in spite of the vote results at the second round of the presidential election on November 28th 2010, plunged the country into a serious political crisis, which turned into a civil war these recent weeks.

The toll of the clashes that led to the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo, members of his family and his entourage on April 11th 2011, is oppressive. More than a thousand people were summarily executed. Civilians have been killed by indiscriminate shelling and shooting of the belligerents. Population lived in fear and suffered of acts of looting, lack of food and medicine, and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of them. These serious human rights violations were the result of armed conflict on both sides and their responsibility should be established.

President Ouattara has announced the initiation of judicial proceedings against Laurent Gbagbo, members of his family and his entourage. According to the FIDH, the LIDHO and the MIDH, these procedures should be exemplary, consistent with the right to a fair trial guaranteed by international instruments for the protection of human rights ratified by Ivory Coast.

For our organisations, the independence of the Ivorian judiciary system will also be judged by the yardstick of the prosecution that it will be engaged against elements of Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), the pro-Ouattara armed forces, suspected of having perpetrated the most serious crimes. It may particularly be based on the facts established by the National Commission of Inquiry, announced by president Ouattara and the International Commission of Inquiry established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which must start their work as soon as possible. In case of absence of will from the Ivorian judicial authorities to prosecute the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will have to decide to open an investigation.

"In the first place, the Ivorian national justice has to judge perpetrators of crimes committed in Ivory Coast. However President Ouattara should ratify the ICC Statute as a guarantee for the present and the future" said Sidiki Kaba, FIDH Honorary President.

In the fight against impunity, which is essential for building lasting peace in the country, the elected authorities of Ivory Coast has to work on the reconciliation of a country torn by a decade of political and military instability, that is also ethnic and religious. The call for calm, restraint, lack of vengeance and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, announced by President Ouattara, are encouraging signs but must be followed by concrete actions. The protection of human rights and economic development at which the Ivorian people aspire, will also participate in gathering the Ivorian people.

Finally, FIDH, MIDH and LIDHO believe that the serious human rights violations committed in these recent months should reflect the international and regional intergovernmental bodies, such as the African Union and the United Nations, unable to find a negotiated solution to the crisis in Ivory Coast and to protect the civilian population. The UN operation in Côte d’Ivoire should have had the resources to ensure its mandate to avoid an intervention of the Force Licorne and its corollary of resentment against the former colonial power.

"Human rights for all must be the meaning of the policy pursued by the Ivorian authorities to avoid the risk of seeing the country back into pain," said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

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