Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Currently, in Ivory Coast, there are serious human rights violations. Incarceration of political opponents and human rights activists. And exploitation of children in a gang and cocoa production.
The National Assembly in December 2017 adopted a new law on the press that, in principle, prohibits detaining or imprisoning journalists, although it leaves open the possibility that journalists might be detained or imprisoned under other laws. The new press law also includes several defamation-related offenses, punishable by fines, including the crime of “offending the President.”
An online news editor was fined 10 million CFA ($17,500) in January for “divulgation of fake news” in relation to a May 2016 interview with former-President Gbagbo’s son, Michel. The latter was sentenced to six months imprisonment for alleging in the interview that the government had unjustly detained, mistreated, and even disappeared pro-Gbagbo supporters, although the sentence against him had not been enforced at time of writing.
The government on several occasions prohibited opposition rallies and used tear gas and other non-lethal force to disperse largely peaceful demonstrators. Dozens of largely peaceful protesters were arrested during a March 22 opposition demonstration, 18 of which were on April 6 sentenced to 12 days’ imprisonment for disturbing public order.
Land Reform and Instability in the West
Recurring disputes over land ownership remain an important source of intercommunal tension, particularly in western Côte d’Ivoire, although 2018 witnessed fewer reported deaths in land-related conflicts than previous years. A rural land agency, created in 2016 but only operational in 2018, began to accelerate efforts to facilitate land registration and demarcate village boundaries. Overall, however, implementation of a 1998 land law, which could reduce conflicts by registering customary land ownership and issuing legal title, remains extremely slow, in large part due to the lengthy and expensive land registration process.
In Abidjan, local government officials in July forcibly evicted thousands of people from the Port Bouët neighborhood without adequate prior notice. Ivorian forestry officials also in some areas continued to forcibly evict farmers from protected forests and national parks. Past government-led forestry reclamation efforts, such as the 2016 eviction of farmers from Mont Péko national park, left thousands of evicted families without access to adequate food, water, or shelter.
Judiciary and Detention Conditions
As in 2017, the organization of cour d’assises sessions in Abidjan and regional courts went some way to addressing the backlog of serious criminal cases. The criminal justice system still faces longstanding and fundamental challenges, however, including a lack of judicial independence, excessive use of pretrial detention, and prison overcrowding.
As of July, some 16,000 people were detained within a prison system designed for less than 9,000. Some 5,800 detainees were in pretrial detention. Detainees lack adequate access to medical care and suffer extortion by prison guards and fellow inmates. Partly to help ease prison overcrowding, President Ouattara pardoned more than 4,000 prisoners accused of non-political crimes in January 2018, another 4,000 in September.
Sexual and gender-based violence remain frequent, with social stigma and widespread impunity preventing many victims from reporting abuses and obtaining medical care or counseling. Although female genital mutilation has been criminalized since 1998, it is still practiced widely, affecting more than a third of women aged between 15 and 49. Child marriage is also still common, with more than a quarter of women now aged 20 to 24 having been married by age 18.
Key International Actors
Côte d’Ivoire’s international partners, including China, the European Union, France, and the United States, failed to publicly comment on the August amnesty, consistent with their failure to meaningfully pressure the government to hold to account those implicated in past human rights violations.
France, the US, and the EU remained major donors in the justice and security sector. The lack of adequate progress made by Cote d’Ivoire in security sector reform was cited in an April leaked EU memorandum that underscored the precariousness of Côte d’Ivoire’s political stability.