Leila Swan's statement on behalf of Human Rights Watch at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 20, 2017.

Since the independent expert’s mandate was established in June 2011, the Ivorian government has made significant progress in recovering from over ten years of conflict and political insecurity, punctuated by serious human rights abuses. After emerging from the 2010-11 post-election crisis, the country has enjoyed more than six years of relative peace and stability, providing a platform for gradual improvement in the rule of law and economic and social rights.

A mutinying soldier at a checkpoint at the entrance to Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire. May 15, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters
But this year’s January and May army mutinies, in which soldiers seized control of the country’s second largest city and neighborhoods in several other towns, exposed the fragility of Côte d’Ivoire’s peace and security and demonstrated the importance of continued monitoring of the country’s human rights situation.

The mutinies are symptomatic of longstanding failures to effectively reform the security sector and address a culture of impunity within the army. The government’s failure to hold soldiers accountable for grave crimes, including during the 2002-03 armed conflict and the 2010-11 post-election crisis, as well as ongoing criminality, checkpoint extortion and corruption, has contributed to an impression that the army is, “above the law.”

The mutinies, and the fear and insecurity they engendered, should underscore to the Ivorian government and its international partners the need to intensify efforts to professionalize the security forces and address impunity. This should include a strengthened military justice system and improved internal disciplinary mechanisms. It should also include a commitment to investigate and prosecute high-level commanders implicated in atrocities during the armed conflict and post-election crisis, sending a message that all members of the army are subject to the rule of law, no matter their status or political affiliation.

Human Rights Watch is grateful to the Independent Expert for his reporting since he began his mandate in 2014. Given the need for continued vigilance, and in view of the Council’s decision to terminate the mandate at this session, the proposed President's Statement should ensure continued monitoring by the OHCHR, including the presentation of a report by the High Commissioner, and should be subject to at least one open informal consultation.