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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora