Côte d’Ivoire must ensure secure space for political participation – UN expert

27 January 2012

A United Nations human rights expert urged Ivorian authorities today to ensure a secure and peaceful environment for political participation following the violent clashes between the supporters and opponents of President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan last Saturday which led to the death of one person and the wounding of six others.

Calling the clashes “a step backwards compared to the dynamics of the democratic elections held in December,” the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, Doudou Diène, called on the Government to ensure the freedom of association and expression and respect for political and cultural diversity as well as guarantees of impartial justice.

Mr. Diène called for the creation of and respect for a secure space for political participation to “ensure the expression of democratic life in the country,” and recommended that the Government ensure that the police are provided with conventional means to enable them to maintain order.

He also urged the authorities to set up an independent, impartial investigation with a view to bringing to justice the perpetrators of last week’s violence. “I hope that effective measures will be taken to determine who was responsible for the incidents on that day, and to ensure the exercise of freedom of association and expression,” he said.

“That is what it takes to ensure political pluralism,” he added, hoping that “the participation of all democratic parties in the upcoming municipal elections will demonstrate political will and the reality of an irreversible democratic culture taking root in Côte d’Ivoire.”

According to a preliminary investigation by the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) on 21 January, individuals armed with stones and pieces of wood claiming to belong to the Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP), a movement close to Mr. Ouattara, stormed a political rally of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) party, the party of former president Laurent Gbagbo. Stones were thrown at FPI supporters, who were then chased all the way into homes and communities where they sought refuge.

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