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Urgent electoral reforms needed ahead of polls 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.

Urgent electoral reforms needed ahead of polls in Côte d’Ivoire – UN expert

Côte d’Ivoire must adopt urgent reforms before the presidential elections scheduled for October, a United Nations independent expert today warned following an official visit to the country.

Doudou Diène, who is charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, urged the authorities there to accelerate the resolution of substantive issues, including the reform of the Independent Electoral Commission and the updating of the electoral list.

The expert, who during a 13-day visit to the country met with officials, civil society and members of the diplomatic corps, also urged officials to speed up “the unbiased reintegration of ex-combatants, and the organisation of trials related to the post-election crisis, as well as reparation for victims of the crisis.”

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 Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing to Alassane Ouattara. Mr. Gbagbo finally surrendered the following April.

The human rights expert welcomed the improved security situation, supported by authorities establishing State institutions and re-launching the political dialogue between the Government and the opposition.

“I encourage the different political parties to refrain from divisive comments that could undermine the success of the ongoing political talks,” he said.

The Independent Expert also acknowledged the authorities’ efforts to re-establish the rule of law and reinforce the democratic process that included extending the mandates of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Investigation Cell, provisionally releasing detainees linked to the electoral crisis, and urging exiles to return.

Among challenges in the country, Mr. Diène expressed concern at the slow pace of judicial proceedings in following up the recommendations of the National Commission of Inquiry, which had reported that grave human rights violations were committed by both sides during the crisis.

That recommendation is part of a comprehensive report that Mr. Diène will present to the Geneva-based Council next month. 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.