News / Africa

Rights Group calls on Ivory Coast to Fulfill Promise of Impartiality

Red Cross workers dump unidentified bodies into a mass grave in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan (2011 file).
Red Cross workers dump unidentified bodies into a mass grave in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan (2011 file).
Anne Look

Human Rights Watch is calling on Ivory Coast to follow through on promises of impartial justice for the perpetrators of war crimes during the country's post-election crisis.

The dispute over who won a November presidential poll plunged Ivory Coast back into civil war late last year.  Approximately 3,000 people were killed and at least 500,000 were displaced before supporters of U.N.-endorsed election winner Alassane Ouattara defeated forces of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to give up power.

In a report released Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says it has documented war crimes and rights abuses by forces loyal to both men during the crisis.

HRW names 13 political and military leaders as being implicated in serious crimes, including former president Gbagbo, his former youth minister, Charles Ble Goude, who led the notorious Young Patriots militia, and four leaders from Mr. Ouattara's camp.

Since taking office, President Ouattara has repeatedly pledged to hold perpetrators on both sides accountable.  However, Human Rights Watch says no one from Ouattara's camp has been arrested, while 118 of Gbagbo's allies are currently in jail.  

HRW Ivory Coast researcher Matt Wells says Ivory Coast risks sliding back into divisions that have already caused two wars in the past decade.  

"What looks to be right now one-sided or victor's justice is a real threat to the reconciliation that the country is trying to go through right now," said Wells. "It is only through impartial justice that the country will move forward from this most recent state of violence and re-establish the rule of law."

Ivory Coast's justice minister did not respond to multiple calls for comment by VOA.

HRW says beginning last December, armed forces and militia loyal to Gbagbo kidnapped and killed political leaders from Ouattara's coalition and gang-raped women believed to support Ouattara.  HRW says pro-Gbagbo militia stopped hundreds of perceived Ouattara supporters at checkpoints and beat them to death with bricks, burned them alive or executed them by gunshot.

In March, pro-Ouattara forces, now known as the Republican Forces, swept through the country's far west and south and finally took the commercial capital, Abidjan, in early April with the support of U.N. and French troops.

HRW researcher Wells says as pro-Ouattara fighters moved through the villages of the far west, they killed civilians from pro-Gbagbo ethnic groups, raped women, burned villages, and took part in the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the western town of Duekoue.  

"The Gbagbo camp is who spurred the violence and there is no disputing that and we never have," said Wells. "From the first days after the election, when he [Gbagbo] refused to step down, they used violence to try to maintain power.  But at the same time, the Republican Forces beginning in March with the military offensive, are clearly implicated in war crimes and likely crimes against humanity as well."  

Wells said regardless of who struck first or the fact that the Republican Forces were removing an illegitimate leader with the support of the international community, crimes are crimes and victims deserve justice.

President Ouattara called the International Criminal Court, known as the ICC, to open an investigation into post-electoral violence. HRW says the ICC received authorization to do just that this week.

Wells said the ICC has a "crucial role" to play in bringing high-level leaders to justice but the work should not stop there.  

"It is absolutely necessary that prosecutions take place at the domestic level both because the ICC is likely to only take on a few cases and because you can have far greater resonance for the victims and for the people of Cote d'Ivoire when trials take place domestically," said Wells.

Ivory Coast launched a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the end of September, however Wells said it is unclear what role the commission will play in the justice process.

You May Like

Video Biden Attends Services at Emanuel AME

Biden said he came to Sunday’s services because he and his family wanted to show solidarity with the families and the church More

Diverse Nation

Here's why minorities could become the US majority sooner than expected More

Rush of Same-Sex Marriages Follows US Supreme Court Ruling

But swift backlash from conservative groups foreshadows battles ahead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs