An Ivory Coast court acquitted [HRW report] former first lady Simone Gbagbo of crimes against humanity on Tuesday. The court acquitted due to a lack of evidence and concerns on whether Gbagbo, who is already serving [BBC report] a 20-year prison term for undermining state security, received a fair trial. In November Gbagbo’s preferred lawyers withdrew from the trial because the court failed to call high-profile witnesses that were considered essential to the defense. The court-appointed lawyers also withdrew their counsel because the court was “irregularly constituted as it included a judge appointed after the trial began.” There was also concern that the trial was politically motivated. In May human rights groups that were acting on behalf of the victims refused to partake in the trial because the victims had been denied the opportunity to participate in the hearing that confirmed the charges against Gbagbo. The Ivory Coast has refused to extradite Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court [official website] where her husband, Laurent Gbagbo, is on trial for crimes against humanity.
The Ivory Coast has faced turmoil since 2010 when former president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] lost his second presidential race to former prime minister Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile]. In January UN Independent Expert Mohammed Ayat described [JURIST report] some of the challenges that Ivory Coast must face as the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) withdraws from the country. Voters in the Ivory Coast successfully approved [JURIST report] a new constitution last year. In November, Ouattara signed [JURIST report] the constitution into law. Amid political tensions, the Ivory Coast continues to host human rights violations. In July, the UN released a report [JURIST report] claiming that the Ivory Coast needed to make greater efforts to prevent and punish rape. In May, Human Rights Watch called [JURIST report] for the trial of the former Ivory Coast first lady to be credible, fair, and followed by the trials of other high-level rights abusers.