Cote d'Ivoire 2017/2018

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Cote d'Ivoire 2017/2018

Around 200 detainees, loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo, awaited trial in connection with post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011. Killings in the context of mutinies and clashes between demobilized soldiers and security forces were uninvestigated. The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly were restricted; some protests were prohibited. Simone Gbagbo, wife of former President Gbagbo, was acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC tried Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé.

Background

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) concluded its mission in June, 13 years after its establishment by the UN Security Council. The UN Independent Expert praised Côte d’Ivoire’s gradual progress towards national reconciliation and stability which, he warned, was fragile given the unrest in January.

The government launched an investigation, supported by UN investigators, into the discovery of an arms cache in a house owned by a close aide of the President of the National Assembly.

In July, there were several attacks by armed groups. Three soldiers were killed when armed men attacked a military camp in Korhogo in the north.

Freedom of expression

Legislation which contained provisions that curtailed the right to freedom of expression, including in relation to defamation, offending the President and disseminating false news, was adopted.

In February, six journalists were detained for two days in the city of Abidjan, accused of divulging false information on army mutinies. They were not charged but continued to be summoned by authorities for questioning.

In August, two Le Quotidien journalists were arrested over an article they wrote about the National Assembly President’s finances.

Freedoms of association and assembly

In February, the police used tear gas and rubber bullets to repress a peaceful protest by cocoa planters and National Agricultural Union members in Abidjan.

In July, demobilized soldiers held peaceful protests in Bouaké city calling on the government to deliver on promises made after protests in May (see below). Amadou Ouattara, Mégbè Diomandé and Lassina Doumbia, members of “Cellule 39” (an association of demobilized soldiers), were arrested and charged with public disorder and organizing an unauthorized protest.

At least 40 students were arrested in September after FESCI (Fédération estudiantine et scolaire de Côte d’Ivoire) organized protests across the country against police violence and increased university fees. One student said the police arrested her with her friends in her room, and beat her. Some of those arrested had thrown stones at the police, but others were peaceful. All were charged with disruption of public order and provisionally released after 20 days.

Impunity

People suspected of supporting former President Gbagbo were tried for human rights violations committed during and after the 2010 election. In contrast, none of President Ouattara’s supporters were arrested or tried in connection with human rights violations.

In May Simone Gbagbo was acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Assize Court of Abidjan. Victims of human rights violations were denied their legal right to participate in the hearing. New lawyers, appointed by the head of the bar after her lawyers withdrew in 2016, also pulled out in March saying the Court was irregularly constituted because a judge was appointed after the trial had begun.

Around 200 supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, arrested since 2011 for crimes allegedly committed during the post-electoral violence, were still detained awaiting trial. Two of them − Assi Jean Kouatchi and Bonfils Todé – died in custody in 2017.

Some detainees were provisionally released and awaited trial. They included Antoinette Meho, a member of civil society organization Solidarité Wé, released in May. She was charged with undermining state security. In December Hubert Oulaye, a former minister who was provisionally released in June, and Maurice Djire, were sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of, and complicity in the murder of, UN soldiers in 2012. Despite defence lawyers’ requests, the court did not provide testimonies from two prosecution witnesses during their trial.

In July, Adou Assoa, another former minister was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for public disorder but cleared of charges of undermining state security.

David Samba, opposition activist and president of the NGO Coalition des Indignés de Côte d’Ivoire, completed his six-month sentence for public disorder in March 2016. Prior to completing that sentence, he was charged with a new offence of undermining state security in relation to an attempted uprising in Dabou in 2015 and was held pending trial at the end of the year.

Mutinies

At least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded in mutinies and clashes between the security forces and demobilized soldiers. Four people were killed between 12 and 14 May during a mutiny in Bouaké which spread to other cities. It was led by soldiers who had been integrated into the army in 2011 and were demanding the payment of bonuses. On 13 May a group of mutineers went to the office of “Cellule 39” and shot at them, in response to “Cellule 39” condemning the munity. Issoufou Diawara was killed after he was shot in the back, and several were wounded. The violence ended when the government agreed to meet the mutineers’ payment demands.

On 22 May, four demobilized soldiers were killed in clashes with police when they held protests calling for an agreement equivalent to the one obtained by the mutineers. They said they were unarmed when police fired on them. (The demobilized soldiers were former members of armed groups who fought on the side of President Ouattara during the 2010-2011 election violence.)

There was no indication that suspected perpetrators, including security forces, would be brought to justice for human rights violations by the end of the year.

International justice

The ICC trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé for crimes against humanity, including murder and rape during the post-electoral violence, continued. In July, the ICC Appeals Chamber ordered the Trial Chamber to review its ruling to deny Laurent Gbagbo’s provisional release.

Corporate accountability

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) delayed until 2018 the publication of its assessment of lasting pollution at the 18 sites where 540,000 litres of toxic waste were dumped in Abidjan in 2006. The waste had been produced by the company Trafigura. The authorities had still not assessed the long-term health risks to individuals of exposure to the chemicals in the waste or monitored victims’ health. Compensation claims against the company continued although many had not received payments.

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