Cote d’Ivoire is a democratic republic. On May 21, Alassane Ouattara, leader and candidate of the opposition party Rally for Republicans (RDR), was officially inaugurated president. The inauguration followed the April 11 capture of Laurent Gbagbo, the former president who refused to accept the results of the October and November 2010 presidential election. The UN and international and domestic observer missions declared the vote fair and democratic and recognized Ouattara as the country’s duly elected president; however, President Ouattara and former president Gbagbo took separate oaths of office in December 2010 and remained in a standoff over the presidency until Gbagbo’s capture. Post-electoral violence perpetrated by both sides, but attributable primarily to pro-Gbagbo forces, resulted in approximately 3,000 deaths, significant population displacement, torture, sexual violence, and widespread property destruction. On March 17, President Ouattara combined the former rebel Forces Nouvelles (FN) with cooperating elements of the Defense and Security Forces (FDS), the former government’s security forces, into the Republic Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI), the country’s new official military. Until President Ouattara’s official inauguration in May, security forces, who largely supported former president Gbagbo, did not report to civilian authorities. Following the inauguration, violence significantly decreased, but there still were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control--particularly FRCI members ineligible for the unified military, armed pro-Gbagbo groups supported under the former regime, and endemic militia groups in the West.
The postelectoral conflict involved serious human rights abuses committed by both sides. Under Gbagbo, state-sponsored death squads, government security forces, and militia groups intimidated and silenced perceived or actual pro-Ouattara supporters. Gbagbo also reportedly hired Liberian mercenaries that were implicated in numerous human rights abuses. Abuses were also committed by the FRCI and other militant groups fighting against Gbagbo. There were numerous reports that the FRCI committed extrajudicial killings on the battlefield and also failed to protect pro-Gbagbo populations from reprisal killings in the wake of the FRCI’s advance. Dozos, or traditional hunters, and pro-Ouattara militia groups participated in reprisal killings, primarily in the western region of the country; although there was no confirmation of allegations that the Ouattara government provided financial, material, or logistical support to militia groups that were sympathetic to Ouattara and the FRCI, although investigations continued at year’s end.
The most important human rights problems in the country included state-sponsored killings under Gbagbo; extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and displacement of persons committed during the postelectoral violence; and disregard for civil liberties and political rights.
Other human rights problems under the Gbagbo government included the following: restriction of citizens’ right to change their government; enforced disappearances; life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; denial of fair public trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence; police harassment and abuse of noncitizen Africans; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, peaceful assembly, association, and movement; official corruption; discrimination and violence against women, including female genital mutilation (FGM); trafficking in persons; discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS; child abuse and exploitation, including forced and hazardous labor; and forced labor.
Other human rights problems under the Ouattara government included poor prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrests and detention; and arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence. The government restricted speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. Corruption was pervasive. Discrimination and violence against women and children, including FGM, was a problem, as was trafficking in persons. Discrimination against persons with disabilities and persons with HIV/AIDS also was a problem. There were reports security forces targeted LGBT individuals for abuse. Forced and hazardous labor, including by children, was common.
Impunity for abuses committed by the security forces remained a serious problem. The Ouattara government reiterated its commitment to respect human rights and punish the perpetrators of human rights abuses, regardless of party affiliation; however, little progress was made during the year. In May President Ouattara asked for assistance from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate human rights abuses committed during the postelectoral crisis. On November 29, former president Gbagbo was indicted under an ICC arrest warrant for crimes against humanity and transferred to The Hague, where he was awaiting trial at year’s end. The Ouattara government also created a national-level Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (DTRC), a national Commission of Inquiry (COI), and a Special Prosecution Cell to address human rights abuses committed during the postelectoral crisis.