Ivory Coast: 43 women who suffered sexual violence during the post-election crisis finally access justice

Our organisations have today filed a civil action lawsuit with the Special Investigation and Examination Unit (Cellule spéciale d’enquête et d’instruction - CSEI) on behalf of 43 women, who were victims of sexual violence during the post-election crisis, and have signalled that they will be assisting in this proceeding.

Our organisations have been able to establish that a very large number ofcrimes of sexual violence were committed during the post-election crisis both in Abidjan and in the west of the country, where the most violent clashes took place. Four years after the crisis, investigations by the Ivorian justice system into these crimes are still largely inadequate with the result that neither the actual perpetrators nor those who allowed the crimes to be committed have been challenged. Supporting these women in legal proceedings is not only a means of enabling them to access justice and to make their voices heard in the process but also a way of contributing to the work conducted by the instructing magistrate responsible, ”, declared Yacouba Doumbia, lawyer and MIDH President.

The Abidjan neighbourhoods of Yopougon and Abobo, sites of the fiercest confrontations, witnessed a large number of acts of sexual violence, often committed at moments of heightened tension and in reprisal for military or political events.

Women were particularly affected during the crisis. The men, who were conscious of the threat posed to them by the presence of armed groups, often fled their homes, thinking that their wives and children would come to no harm. Unfortunately, the months of March and April 2011 demonstrated the opposite as, during the fiercest confrontations, armed groups took the violence right into the homes of the men and women they had earmarked as their opponents, entering their houses, raping and pillaging, stated Aimée Zebeyoux, AFJCI President.

Two judicial investigations were opened within the CSEI concerning the most serious crimes committed during the crisis. And while the work of this unit was delayed by the announcement of its closure in 2013 and by subsequent operational difficulties in 2014, it now has the resources required to conduct the investigations. Our organisations, which supported the extension of its work, are extremely pleased, but stress that important investigative work still remains to be accomplished before satisfactory trials may be envisaged.

The latest judicial developments concerning the post-election crisis in hearings before the Abidjan Court of Assizes or Military Court have shown the need to conduct satisfactory judicial investigations in which the charges are supported and the responsibilites clearly established. We are today asking Ivorian justice to pursue and extend its investigations, notably for women who have suffered rape, so that justice may be exercised in the best possible conditions, independent of any political or electoral agenda, and in accordance with the Ivorian government’s undertaking. The credibility of national justice is at stake, declared Patrick Baudouin, lawyer and FIDH Honorary President.

For more information, see the FIDH/LIDHO/MIDH report Ivory Coast: Choosing between Justice and Impunity, published in December 2014.

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