Expected Council Action
In April, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Ambassador Cristián Barros (Chile), chair of the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee, regarding the final report of the Group of Experts, which is due 15 April.
The Council is likely to adopt a resolution renewing targeted sanctions—a partial arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban—due to expire on 30 April. The mandate of the Group of Experts, which expires 30 May, is also likely to be renewed.
Key Recent Developments
On 10 March, a national court sentenced Simone Gbagbo, the wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, to 20 years in jail for her role in violence that killed more than 3,000 people following the presidential election in late 2010. She had been charged with organising armed gangs, undermining the security of the state and disturbing public order. Since December 2014, 83 supporters of Laurent Gbagbo and the opposition party Front populaire ivoirien have been on trial. Other high-profile defendants who were sentenced on 10 March include two prominent generals (sentenced to 20 years in prison each); Aboudrahamane Sangare, a close political ally of the former president (ten years); and Michel Gbagbo, the son of Laurent Gbagbo (five years). The trials have prompted claims of victor’s justice, as thus far only supporters of Gbagbo have been charged in domestic courts for post-election violence; no members of the ruling Rassemblement des républicains party supporting President Alasane Ouattara have been charged. Simone Gbagbo, Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, the last two of whom are soon to be tried jointly at the ICC, are among the six individuals currently listed under the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire sanctions regime.
The third quadripartite meeting involving the governments of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and the UN peacekeeping missions in the two countries took place in Abidjan on 10 March. Each country’s delegation was led by its foreign affairs minister, while the interior ministers of both countries also participated. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) were represented by their respective heads, Karin Landgren and Aïchatou Mindaoudou. The heads of UNMIL and UNOCI emphasised their continued full support for joint efforts by Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire to consolidate stability and security along their shared border. The meeting focused on the security and humanitarian situations along the common border, bilateral cooperation between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia and other forums, such as the scheduled May follow up to the Joint Council of Traditional Chiefs and Elders held in October 2013, the sixth edition of the 1972 Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire Joint Commission for Bi-lateral Cooperation to be held in April, the ongoing work of the Mano River Union established in 1973 and the resumption of activities by the Tripartite Commission (comprising the two countries and the UN Refugee Agency).
At a meeting of the Tripartite Commission in Abidjan on 12 March, it was agreed that the voluntary repatriation of 38,000 Ivorian refugees remaining in Liberia would resume as early as 6 April. Refugees initially fled from Côte d’Ivoire to Liberia due to the 2002-2007 civil war and the 2010-2011 post-election violence. Since October 2011, when the repatriation process was first launched, about 205,000 Ivorians have returned to Côte d’Ivoire from Liberia. However, due to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, the border between the two countries was officially closed in July 2014. At the meeting, plans were also developed to put security and disease control measures in place, including a pre-departure risk assessment and health monitoring in both Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. The Tripartite Commission also recommended that security operations be improved on both sides of the border and that UN missions assist governments in road repairs to facilitate the movement of refugee convoys.
The Council last discussed the situation in Côte d’Ivoire on 13 January. Mindaoudou briefed on the work of UNOCI during the previous six months and other recent developments in Côte d’Ivoire. Barros briefed on his trip to the country on 2-7 November 2014 as chair of the 1572 Sanctions Committee; and Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba (Côte d’Ivoire) also addressed the Council. Mindaoudou identified an incomplete security sector reform (SSR) process, including widespread public demonstrations by disaffected members of the Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire, as a continued threat to stability. She also mentioned that while the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process is making progress, it is projected that at least 14,000 former combatants will still need assistance from authorities by the June 2015 deadline. With regard to national reconciliation, Mindaoudou further stressed the need to fight against impunity and improve accountability for human rights abuses. Barros recounted his discussions with the authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, including his emphasis that progress on SSR, DDR, national reconciliation and fighting impunity are the factors for determining the suitability of lifting UN sanctions. Barros mentioned that notable achievements had been made but that more needed to be done, particularly within the context of the upcoming presidential election in October.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Mohammed Ayat, the independent expert of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on capacity-building and technical cooperation with Côte d’Ivoire in the field of human rights, conducted his first visit to the country from 12 to 21 January. In a press conference on 21 January in Abidjan, Ayat highlighted the need for domestic legal proceedings and frameworks to comply with international standards, particularly in prosecuting those responsible for human rights violations. He also urged the government to address the situation of detainees and called on the international community to support the government’s efforts in these areas. Ayat will submit a written report to the HRC at its 29th session.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein issued a statement on 11 March, the day after supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo, including his wife Simone Gbagbo, were sentenced. He called for the prompt prosecution of the perpetrators of killings, rapes and other serious breaches of international law that occurred prior to and during the 2010-2011 conflict in the country. Zeid added that while important measures have been taken to bring domestic criminal laws into conformity with the Rome Statute, it is essential that the authorities take prompt steps to ensure the adoption of the draft law on victim and witness protection, shorten pre-trial detention periods and develop an effective appeals process. He added that Côte d’Ivoire must prioritise equitable justice, truth and reconciliation, particularly ahead of the presidential elections.
The principal focus for the Council in April will be assessing potential threats to peace and security in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly within the context of upcoming presidential elections. More specifically, the Council will need to evaluate the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire sanctions regime in order to determine how it may best contribute to maintaining stability in the country during a presidential election year.
The most likely option would be for the Council to renew the current sanctions regime—which includes an asset freeze, travel ban and a partial arms embargo—without modification.
Other considerably less likely options include:
- reinstating the comprehensive arms embargo or diamond export ban; or
- not renewing current measures and thus letting the sanctions regime expire.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council dynamics on Côte d’Ivoire were readily apparent during the negotiation of resolution 2153, adopted 29 April 2014, which most recently reauthorised sanctions. France, the former colonial power and penholder, was the strongest proponent of partially lifting the arms embargo and removing the ban on the export of rough diamonds, while the US was more reluctant to modify the sanctions regime, particularly regarding the arms embargo. As communicated to 1572 Sanctions Committee chair Barros when he visited in November, the government favours termination of the UN sanctions regime.
However, as there has been insufficient progress made on DDR, SSR, national reconciliation and accountability, there is unlikely to be much support in the Council for that position at this juncture. This is particularly the case given the risks to stability posed by the upcoming presidential election, whose timing roughly coincides with the trial of Laurent Gbagbo at the ICC. An entrenched perception of victor’s justice held by members of the Front populaire ivoirien opposition party further complicates what could be a highly contentious election period. These factors would seem to argue for a cautious approach with respect to either loosening or terminating the sanctions regime, at least until after the presidential elections in October.
France is the penholder on Côte d’Ivoire and Chile is the chair of the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 April 2014 S/RES/2153||This resolution lifted the diamond embargo on Cote d’Ivoire and partially lifted the arms embargo. It renewed for a year the financial and travel measures on target individuals as well as the sanctions on arms and lethal material, and it renewed for thirteen months the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1572 Sanctions Committee on Cote d’Ivoire.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 January 2015 S/PV.7358||This was a briefing by the head of UNOCI, Special Representative Aichatou Mindaoudou, on the Secretary-General’s report on Cote d’Ivoire, the chair of the 1572 Cote d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee also briefed on his 2-7 November 2014 trip to the country.|