[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a report on Thursday calling for the Ivory Coast government to prosecute both sides [report, PDF] of the post-election violence [BBC backgrounder] equally. The violence began last November when Alassane Ouattara defeated incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profiles], but Gbagbo refused to cede power. The report alleges that pro-Gbagbo forces then began a “targeted campaign of violence” against Ouatarra supporters and political leaders. The report further alleges that during the pro-Ouattara supporters’ coordinated offensive to take over the country, they executed unarmed pro-Gbagbo militiamen and men from ethnic groups aligned with Gbagbo. During the six-month conflict at least 3,000 civilians were killed and more than 150 women were raped. Charges have been brought against 118 Gbagbo supporters, but not a single member of the pro-Ouattara forces has been prosecuted for their role in the post-election violence. The report warns that such conduct creates the risk of “victor’s justice” and that the government must “send a message that a new era of impartial justice and human rights has begun.” Although the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] has agreed to open an investigation, the report stressed the importance of domestic trials in order to “help maximize the rebuilding of respect for rule of law.”
The ICC granted the request [JURIST report] of Chief Prosecutor Luis-Moreno Ocampo to open an investigation into the Ivory Coast’s post-election violence earlier this week. Ocampo officially requested permission [JURIST report] from ICC judges in June to begin the investigation after determining that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. The Ivory Coast announced earlier in that month that it would establish its own commission [JURIST report] to investigate alleged crimes committed as a result of the disputed presidential elections. This investigation may take up to two years [Reuters report]. Also, an official for the UN’s International Commission of Inquiry called for an investigation [JURIST report] into Ouattara and his forces’ continuing attacks against supporters of Gbagbo. In April, HRW urged Ouattara to conduct an investigation [JURIST report] into alleged atrocities carried out by his forces in its attempts to secure the presidency. According to the report, the pro-Ouattara forces, known as the Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast, killed more than 100 civilians, raped at least 20 supporters of Gbagbo and burned at least 10 villages in March. Also in April, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] reported the deaths of at least 800 civilians [JURIST report] in the Ivory Coast town of Duekoue as a result of intercommunal violence.