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VI. Future Implications of Unchallenged Impunity

Continuing violations of the kind described in this report, and the impunity that underpins them, raise serious concerns about the potential for the elections planned for later this year to be conducted peacefully. Despite increased talk of national unity on Ivorian radio, television, and in the street, there is no mistaking that Côte d’Ivoire heads towards these elections strongly divided, with major political parties loosely organized along ethnic and religious lines,108 and security forces, both in the north and south, often perceived to represent the interests of particular political parties.  In the current climate where security forces and militias appear to be free to abuse, harass and intimidate without sanction, often on the basis of identity and ethnicity, the ability of individuals to associate freely, the ability of political parties and their supporters to organize and campaign, and the ability of the press freely to cover electoral developments, are highly questionable. 

Moreover, unless measures to combat impunity are taken now, there could be a repeat of the violence experienced during the 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections, when political, ethnic, and religious violence resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people and injuries to hundreds more.109 Such measures should include wider application of travel and economic sanctions against individuals identified as responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and prompt dispatch of a mission to Côte d’Ivoire by the International Criminal Court to investigate those suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility for serious crimes by both government and rebel forces. This would send a strong signal that the era of impunity in Cote d’Ivoire must be addressed and that further violence and abuses, including any committed in the lead up to elections, will not go unpunished. 

[108]  For example, the RDR, headed by Alassane Ouattara, draws heavily on support from the largely Muslim north, while the Ivorian Popular Front (Front Populaire Ivoirien, FPI) headed by Laurent Gbagbo, consists largely of Christian southerners.

[109]  See Human Rights Watch, “The New Racism.”

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