Human Rights Watch welcomes the willingness of the government of Côte d’Ivoire to renew the Independent Expert’s mandate.
We agree with the Independent Expert’s conclusions that serious human rights violations committed in Côte d’Ivoire, including those that occurred during the post-election crisis, should not go unpunished. Victims of these crimes are entitled to impartial and equitable justice.
Human Rights Watch welcomes the commitment the government has made to address impunity and the decision to create a Special Investigative and Examination Cell to investigate abuses committed during the post-election crisis.
We have been encouraged by the recent influx of support from the government that has enabled the Cell to make much-needed progress. This positive shift in support was especially important in light of the uncertainty surrounding the Cell’s very existence in late 2013 and ongoing resource constraints that had, until very recently, limited its capacity to conduct effective investigations.
Given how recently, however, the Special Cell has received additional support, Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned by reports that the Cell has faced pressure from the government to prematurely close two of its key investigations into human rights abuses committed during the post-election crisis. The complexity of serious human rights crimes means that comprehensive investigations inevitably take considerable time, resources and support. We agree with the Independent Expert’s remarks at the conclusion of his May 2015 mission that, “justice should not be rushed, should respect fair trial rights and should be detached from the exigencies of the day. Good investigations need time and resources to be conducted in the right conditions.”
Human Rights Watch strongly urges the Ivorian government to maintain support for the Special Cell and to make clear to the Cell’s leadership that the fairness and credibility of investigations is paramount. For the Cell’s judges to close their investigations prematurely would undermine the capacity of the Ivorian justice system to conduct fair, credible and impartial trials.
We also urge the government to prioritize passage of a proposed law on witness protection that would bring much-needed security and confidence to victims and witnesses.
Justice for the victims of the post-election crisis is long overdue. Preemptively closing investigations aimed at delivering accountability for these complex cases risks undermining national efforts to combat the climate of impunity that has plagued Côte d’Ivoire for too long.