Justice in Cote d'Ivoire: Examining Its Challenges

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The International Center for Transitional Justice is convening a high-level conference today in Abidjan to discuss the progress in investigating and prosecuting serious crimes committed in Cote d’Ivoire during the 2010 post-election violence.

Participants will exchange views on how to carry out effective national prosecutions of international crimes in Cote d’Ivoire.

The International Center for Transitional Justice is convening a high-level conference today in Abidjan to discuss the progress in investigating and prosecuting serious crimes committed in Cote d’Ivoire during the 2010 post-election violence.

Representatives of national authorities and experts in the rule of law, development, and justice will review the findings of an ICTJ assessment of the challenges facing the Ivorian judicial system at the conference, held in collaboration with the Ivorian Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civil Liberties; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire, with the support of the European Union.

Over 3,000 individuals lost their lives and many others suffered serious human rights violations in the crisis that followed the 2010 elections, which pitted the current president Alassane Ouattara against his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo for the presidency.

In the aftermath of the crisis, the new government created several structures to help deliver justice and reparations to the victims of the violence. These include the National Commission of Inquiry; the Commission on Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation; and the Special Investigative Cell – which later saw its mandate extended as the Special Investigation and Instruction Cell.

Participants at the conference will share their experiences and insights regarding the obstacles facing the Ivorian justice system, particularly those that may have a pronounced, negative impact on providing evenhanded, impartial justice to victims. They will also exchange views on how to carry out effective national prosecutions of international crimes in Cote d’Ivoire.

“At this critical time, ahead of the fall 2015 elections, the national authorities need to take asserted steps at the policy level to demonstrate their willingness to ensure accountability and restore public trust in state institutions,” said Mohamed Suma, ICTJ’s Head of Office in Cote d’Ivoire. “We hope this conference will inform their efforts to provide justice to the victims.”

The meeting comes at an opportune time. The only court in the country with jurisdiction to hear serious crimes, la Cour d'Assises, sat in session in May 2014, for the first time in several years. In its second session it is expected to open the case against Simone Gbagbo and tens of others close to the former regime for crimes against the security of the state. This is the first case expected to proceed to trial.

Although a hearing on the merits of the case indicates a kind of progress, it also raises concerns. A case with so many co-accused raises many practical and possibly legal complexities.

“What matters is not simply that a case takes place,” said Anna Myriam Roccatello, ICTJ’s Deputy Program Director, “but that the quality of the proceedings and the result inspire confidence in the justice system as a whole.”

The findings of ICTJ’s assessment of the Ivorian justice system, as well as recommendations to overcome the obstacles identified, have been compiled in a technical report to be reviewed at the conference.

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