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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs