Côte d’Ivoire On 21 March, the UN Human Rights Council considered the report of Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire Doudou Diène, based on the Expert’s visits to the country from 14 – 25 November and 7 – 13 December 2011. The report found that despite a gradual improvement in the security situation since the election of President Alassane Outtara, significant challenges remained, including restoration of security throughout the country and along the borders, combating impunity and promoting reconci liation. During the Human Rights Council dialogue, Côte d’Ivoire noted that the country had experienced rapid and positive changes to its governing systems. Speakers commended the Ivorian government for its willingness to take steps to promote human rights, and its continued engagement with the Human Rights Council.
Meanwhile, civil society organizations have demanded that the Ivoirian government address these post-conflict challenges. On 27 March, Amnesty International called on Côte d’Ivoire to assist the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its probe into post-election violence and to set up a national process to investigate individuals regardless of political affiliation. Accused of crimes against humanity, former president Laurent Gbagbo will appear in The Hague on 18 June 2012, but no individuals who supported Ouattara have been br ought to trial in national, regional or international courts. On 29 March Human Rights Watch also called on current President Alassane Outtara’s government to take responsibility for crimes committed on both sides.
For the latest news on the ICC’s investigation into crimes committee in Côte d”Ivoire, see the Coalition for the ICC’s updates from 29 March.
One Year On, Duékoué Massacre Belies Ouattara Government’s Promises of Impartial Justice
Human Rights Watch
29 March 2012
Matt Wells is the Côte d’Ivoire researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of HRW’s October 2011 report on the post-election crisis, ‘“They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing”: The Need for Justice for Cote d’Ivoire’s Post-Election Crimes.’
One year ago today, forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara captured the western town of Duékoué as they swept through Côte d’Ivoire before ultimately arresting former President Laurent Gbagbo. After taking over the town, pro-Ouattara forces committed horrific abuses, killing several hundred people.
A year later, no one has been credibly investigated, much less arrested, for these crimes. And yet their victims are as deserving of justice as those who suffered abuses by Gbagbo’s forces as he clung to power.
Duékoué had long been a hub for pro-Gbagbo militiamen. (…) Before the post-election crisis erupted, northern Ivorians and West African immigrants described ongoing persecution by the militiamen. Local residents also endured widespread killings and rapes by the militiamen during and after the 2002-2003 armed conflict. As President Ouattara’s Republican Forces began their military offensive in the West last March, pro-Gbagbo militiamen, often with Liberian mercenaries, again murdered perceived Ouattara supporters.
After several days of fighting, pro-Ouattara forces – including the Republican Forces and several allied militia groups – took effective control of Duékoué on March 29. Some members of these forces proceeded to retaliate viciously against certain groups presumed to support the former president, and particularly targeted male youth from the Guéré ethnic group who had formed the core of Gbagbo’s militias in the West. (…)
Pro-Ouattara forces effectively burned the Carrefour neighborhood to the ground, along with several other Guéré villages around Duékoué. Indeed, throughout their military offensive, pro-Ouattara forces razed villages and committed executions and rape.
Despite its promise to provide impartial justice, the Ouattara government has not accounted for what happened during the Duékoué massacre, a disconcerting omission given the scale and symbolic significance of the abuses. At the same time, more than 120 people from the Gbagbo camp have been charged by military or civilian prosecutors.
It’s not as if the government doesn’t know where to start in investigating the Duékoué massacre. Amadé Ouérémi has been individually named as having been involved in the Duékoué massacre, either directly or through command responsibility, in reports published by Human Rights Watch and the UN Operations in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). The Ivorian government’s own state-owned Fraternité-Matin wrote an article in September 2011 stating that there were “suspicions” of Amadé’s role in the “Duékoué massacres.” It continued, “The villagers clearly recognized members of his group in the attack on the Carrefour neighborhood of Duékoué. An attack during which the chief of Bagohouo, 41 people from the same village, and hundreds of others perished.”
Why, then, is Amadé still at large one year later? He is not directly associated with the Republican Forces (though Duékoué residents said Amadé’s forces sometimes fought alongside them). Amadé does not appear to command a large number of soldiers. He appears, on the surface, to be one of the easiest – and potentially most significant – targets for prosecution, were the government actually interested in acting on its promises of ensuring impartial justice. (…)
Investigations and prosecutions are essential for the return of the rule of law in Côte d’Ivoire. They would send a powerful message that the Ouattara government understands that the post-election conflict included grave crimes that caused the loss of life on both sides of the nation’s political and ethnic divide. The continued impunity for the Duékoué massacre provides a daily reminder that justice is serving only the victors.
The communal divides that have fueled Côte d’Ivoire’s massive human rights abuses will only be healed when people like Amadé are brought to justice.