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Release of former Gbagbo aides ‘major step’ for justice in Côte d’Ivoire – UN expert

Independent Expert on human rights in Côte d’Ivoire Doudou Diène.
Jean-Marc Ferré
Independent Expert on human rights in Côte d’Ivoire Doudou Diène.

Release of former Gbagbo aides ‘major step’ for justice in Côte d’Ivoire – UN expert

The release of 14 officials from the former government headed by Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire represents “a major step” on the path toward equitable justice and reconciliation in the country, a United Nations independent expert said today.

The individuals were released this week by a court in the country’s commercial capital, Abidjan, after two years in detention. They are now awaiting trial.

“The authorities’ decision is likely to re-launch the political dialogue vigorously,” said the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, Doudou Diène.

“It is also a key step in the process of national catharsis by which the Ivorian people must recognize and accept the profound moral and political causes of the past violence and grave human rights violations and eradicate their social, cultural and psychological consequences.”

The West African country was split by civil war in 2002. A 2010 presidential election, meant to be a culminating point in the peace process, resulted in months of violence when Mr. Gbagbo refused to step down after losing to Alassane Ouattara. Mr. Gbagbo finally surrendered the following April.

Earlier this year, during the presentation of his latest report on Côte d’Ivoire to the UN Human Rights Council, the Independent Expert called on the Ivorian authorities to proceed to the trial of detainees close to Mr. Gbagbo or to release them. Mr. Diène, who visited these detainees during his missions to the country, insisted on the need for justice equity in the national reconciliation and democratic reconstruction processes there.

“I hope the provisional release of detainees, which reflects fairness of justice, falls within an irreversible process of national reconciliation, and also is accompanied by emblematic measures as to give meaning and substance to the fight against impunity,” he said.

Mr. Diène also called on the Ivorian authorities to find a fair balance between the need to respect the rights of detainees and the rights of the victims. “This measure of openness from the authorities should also take into account the rights of all victims of the post-electoral crisis, in particular, by the fairness of the ongoing proceedings and the implementation of a policy on effective remedies necessary to the national reconciliation process.”

Among the officials released are the president of the Front Populaire Ivoirien, Pascal Affi N’Guessan; the son of the former president, Michel Gbagbo; and the former Minister of Defence, Lida Kouassi.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.