Voice of America (Washington, DC)

16 October 2013

Cote d'Ivoire: International Court Urged to Administer Equal Justice in Ivory Coast

A former high-ranking UN investigator says the International Criminal Court (ICC) must look into - and prosecute - all human rights violations committed during Ivory Coast's civil war - or lose its credibility.

Alan White, the former chief of investigations for the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, said the ICC's work must include those groups which fought against the previous government.

The ICC is gathering evidence to prosecute former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo for his role in a civil war that followed his refusal to accept the October 2010 presidential vote.

"I hope for the credibility of the ICC that they ensure that there is balanced prosecution," said White.

White expressed hope that ICC's new deputy prosecutor James Stewart would review the atrocities committed in Ivory Coast.

"From every indication that I get, he will certainly be supportive in working very closely with the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. He certainly realizes, as she does, that there is an issue of perception of balanced prosecution," said White. "I told the prosecutor's office that from firsthand experience, there would be no retributive justice [and] reconciliation in Ivory Coast unless all parties are brought to justice."

Human rights groups accused supporters of both Gbagbo and current President Alassane Ouattara of human rights violations during the conflict.

His comments came after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Charles Ble Goude, a former minister of Youth and Sports under former President Laurent Gbagbo's administration.

Ble Goude was the leader of a militia loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo called the Young Patriots. The youth group is accused of coordinating attacks against critics of Gbagbo's former government. Over 3,000 people were killed during the 2010-post election violence. The Hague-based court accuses Ble Goude of coordinating attacks against civilians believed to oppose then-Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

The court says Ble Goude, who led Gbagbo's Young Patriots movement, had the power to control militias that attacked specific ethnic or religious communities in Abidjan and in western Ivory Coast. He is also accused of helping recruit and arm thousands of volunteers for the militias, which operated in concert with the army.

The ICC is gathering evidence to prosecute former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, though his supporters criticize the court for only targeting close allies. White said the lack of prosecution of forces supporting President Alassane Ouattara could hinder the country's reconciliation effort.

"Now that there have been three people identified where arrest warrants were issued by the ICC, it really is enhancing and creating tensions in the country, when it looks like perceptually, they are going after one side," said White. "Everybody knows not only in Ivory Coast but in the Manor River Union Region that [parliament speaker] Guillaume Soro is certainly responsible directly; he aided and abetted the atrocities that were committed from 2002 up till last year."

He encouraged the ICC to request a United Nations report detailing evidence of atrocities committed during the post-election violence.

Supporters of Mr. Gbagbo have also criticized the U.N. Security Council for failing to recommend the prosecution of pro-Ouattara supporters to the ICC for prosecution. White urged the pro-Gbagbo supporters to put political pressure on the authorities in Ivory Coast to ensure balance.

"They need to rise up officially and publically and make their voice heard to their elected officials. There are members of parliament that they need to demand that action be taken," said White.

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