ICC must look at both sides in Ivorian strife, says rights group

The International Criminal Court (ICC) must broaden its probe of the violence that ripped Côte d’Ivoire apart in 2010 and 2011 to include violations committed by loyalists of President Alassane Ouattara, says Human Rights Watch.
Since 2011 the Hague-based court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has been probing a conflict that erupted after former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara in a vote the year before.
However, only Gbagbo and figures loyal to him have been charged so far for crimes committed in post-election violence that left at least 3,000 dead.
Gbagbo, in custody in The Hague, is the first former head of state to be prosecuted by the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal.
‘It’s absolutely urgent to get started’ with a probe of violence committed by Ouattara loyalists during the war, said Elizabeth M Evenson, senior counsel of Human Rights Watch’s international justice programme. ‘Additional ICC investigations are necessary, but the focus so far on pro-Gbagbo forces has deeply polarised opinion … about the ICC’ within Côte d’Ivoire, she said. The New York-based rights group warned that a failure to expand the scope of the investigations would leave many in Côte d’Ivoire feeling unjustly sidelined.
‘Many victims feel that the court has ignored their suffering,’ Evenson told Agence France Presse (AFP).
Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer, had previously pledged her office would investigate abuses by both sides but had been held back by limited resources, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch also released a report, Making Justice Count, which urged the ICC to do more to involve communities affected by the violence in Côte d’Ivoire in its work. It criticised the ICC’s failure to deploy an outreach officer to communicate with affected communities until autumn last year.

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