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V. International Response to Recent Abuses

In response to the January 2006 attacks against United Nations personnel, the U.N. Security Council, pursuant to Security Council resolution 1572 (2004), on February 7, 2006, activated a travel ban and assets freeze against three individuals:  Charles Blé Goude and Eugène Djué of the Young Patriots militia, and Fofié Kouakou, a New Forces commander in Korhogo.103 While internationally-supported initiatives designed to restrain abusers and combat impunity are welcome and necessary, it is unfortunate that such measures were only activated after United Nations personnel and material interests were the object of attack.

Political observers interviewed by Human Rights Watch characterized as “inconsistent” the criteria used to select those who would be subject to U.N. sanctions.104 One U.N. official noted how, on the one hand, the two pro-government militia leaders were selected on the basis of their role in the January attacks against the U.N., whereas the rebel commander was chosen for acts he had committed as far back as June 2004.105  The failure to apply sanctions consistently and against more abusers is but one example of the international community putting accountability mechanisms on hold for an elusive final settlement. 

In addition to sanctions, other measures that might restrain abusers and combat impunity throughout Côte d’Ivoire appear to have been similarly put on hold.  For example, following a request by all parties to the Linas-Marcoussis agreement to investigate serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated in Côte d’Ivoire since September 19, 2002, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) dispatched a commission of inquiry to Côte d’Ivoire. However, the U.N. Security Council has yet to make public or discuss the findings of the report, which was handed to the U.N. Secretary-General in November 2004 and transmitted to the Security Council on December 23, 2004.  The failure to discuss the findings of the report, let alone act on them, sends the wrong signal to abusers. 

Although the Ivorian government lodged a declaration in September 2003 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accepting the court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed since September 19, 2002,106 the ICC prosecutor has not determined whether the Office of the Prosecutor will open an investigation into the situation there. 

The ICC Prosecutor has indicated he intends to send a delegation to Côte d’Ivoire,107 but has yet to do so. Indeed, the ICC prosecutor has to date made minimal public statements on the role he sees for the ICC in ensuring accountability for crimes in Côte d’Ivoire and has not been seen actively to promote domestic prosecutions for human rights abuses.

Human Rights Watch believes that a more proactive role by the ICC prosecutor in relation to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire is warranted. It is important that a mission to Côte d’Ivoire proceed as quickly as possible, not only to assess the possibility of an ICC investigation, but also to ensure a clear message is sent to the perpetrators of serious crimes and to the main leaders in Côte d’Ivoire that the ICC is monitoring abuses committed there. Public or private communications indicating that the ICC has an interest in accountability for abuses committed in Côte d’Ivoire, and that national authorities should also be taking steps to commence appropriate national prosecutions, with appropriate international assistance as necessary, for serious crimes could have a positive effect in helping to stem ongoing abuses.

[103] Under resolution 1572, persons constituting, inter alia, “a threat to the peace and national reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire” or “any other person determined as responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Côte d’Ivoire” may be designated by the Sanctions Committee.  Once an individual is designated, all states are required to take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of a designated individual and to freeze immediately the funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories that are owned or controlled by a designated individual. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1572, S/RES/1572 (2004).

[104] Human Rights Watch interviews with U.N. sources and international NGOs, Abidjan, March 2, 2006.

[105] Ibid.

[106]  International Criminal Court, “Registrar confirms that the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court,” ICC Press Release, February 15, 2005.

[107]  On November 28, 2005, the ICC prosecutor indicated that his office was planning a mission to Côte d’Ivoire for early 2006. Statement by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fourth Session of the Assembly of State Parties, 28 November – 3 December 2005, The Hague, November 28, 2005.

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