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Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire has embarked on a process of addressing the legacy of internal strife that culminated in the 2010 post-election violence. ICTJ provides technical assistance to government bodies and civil society groups that are implementing transitional justice measures to reestablish the rule of law, including criminal investigations and the truth commission.

Skulls of young brothers who allegedly killed in 2011 by Republican Forces soldiers allied with President Alassane Ouattara (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Background: Confronting Ethnic Division, Addressing Impunity

Following the death of Félix Houphouët-Boigny—who had held the presidency since the country gained independence in 1960— conflict simmered in Côte d’Ivoire for over a decade.

The first major crisis occurred in 2000, when political leaders invoked ethnicity as a political factor in excluding Alassane Ouattara, the main opposition leader, from running as president. This left the country deeply divided. Violence ensued after Laurent Gbagbo was declared winner, leading to the loss of many lives.

Elections again took place in October 2010, pitting Ouattara against incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo in the second round of voting. Gbagbo lost the vote, but refused to step down, sparking violence in which approximately 3,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Ultimately, forces loyal to Ouattara succeeded in taking the capital of Abidjan and ousting Gbagbo.

After the conflict, Côte d’Ivoire witnessed a rapid pace of economic and political recovery. Upon assuming office, President Ouattara established the Cellule Spéciale d'Enquête, or the Special Investigative Unit, under the Ministry of Justice, to investigate crimes punishable under national law—including economic crimes, blood crimes and crimes against the state.

A UN Commission of Inquiry was instituted in March 2011 to investigate the violence and recommend possible ways to redress its consequences. Its report assigned responsibility to both sides.

Later that year, Ouattara established a truth commission to investigate violations at the national level, following UN recommendations. The resultant Commission for Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation (Commission Dialogue, Vérité et Réconciliation, or CDVR) is mandated to identify the root causes of the conflict, acts and patterns of violations, and ways for the country to overcome its legacy of violence through reconciliation and recognition of victims.

Ouattara’s new government also invited the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the post-election crisis, and on February 15, 2013, Côte d’Ivoire ratified the ICC’s Rome Statute. Gbagbo who has been in the custody of the ICC in The Hague for charges of crimes against humanity since November 2011 was arraigned for confirmation of charges against him on June 3, 2013. The Pre-Trial Chamber I adjourned the hearing and entreated the Prosecutor to provide further evidence.

However, there remains concern about the speed or even intention of the authorities to ensure an equitable approach to justice takes place. Côte d’Ivoire is facing the challenge of establishing credibility for its transitional justice processes and ensuring accountability and safety for all citizens.

Updated 09/5/2013

ICTJ's Role:

ICTJ established its mission in Côte d’Ivoire in March 2012 to provide capacity building, technical assistance, and exposure to comparative experiences to Ivorian transitional justice institutions, civil society, victims’ groups, and media.

  • Truth seeking and Reconciliation: ICTJ engages the Commission for Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation (CDVR) in truth-seeking processes by providing capacity building and technical assistance and exposure to international standards and best practices. The objective is to accompany the CDVR through its various stages of operations, such as mapping, investigations, statement taking, hearings, and report writing, as it relates to the clarity of its mandate, legal analysis, and publication standards. ICTJ provided training and technical support to staff of the National Commission of Inquiry in the final phase of its operations, before its final report was published in August 2012.
  • Criminal Justice: ICTJ provides training and technical support to the Special Investigative Unit (Cellule Spéciale d'Enquête) as it relates to its mandate. It also works with the judiciary by providing capacity building and support on issues related to trying serious international crimes. ICTJ also engages policy makers in government and the judiciary as well as international partners to strengthen Côte d’Ivoire on the issue of national prosecutions and complementarity.
  • Gender Justice: ICTJ works with the CDVR’s gender sub-commission by training and providing ongoing technical assistance to enhance its understanding of justice as it relates to truth-seeking. We also work with the sub-commission to include initiatives that enable it to mainstream its work with CDVR operations and to share gender-sensitive approaches for investigations, hearings, and report writing. ICTJ also engages with women’s rights groups by enhancing their capacity to participate in the truth-seeking and national reconciliation processes.
  • Children and Youth: ICTJ works with children sub-commission of CDVR to ensure that it takes positive steps to adopt a children and youth sensitive approach in its operations and process, including statement-taking, organization of hearings, report writing, and outreach. We also work with child protection agencies and youth groups in Cote d’Ivoire to enhance their participation in the truth seeking process and other transitional justice mechanisms.
  • Civil Society and Media: ICTJ works with three types of civil society groups—victims, women, and human rights groups—to develop their capacity to engage in transitional justice processes. ICTJ also works with the National Union of Journalists (UNJCI) and the guild of editors (Groupement des Editeurs de Presse de Côte-d’Ivoire (GEPCI) to train media on transitional justice issues and how to accurately report on them.