Côte d'Ivoire

Following post-election violence in 2010-11, an ICC investigation was opened in the situation of Côte d'Ivoire. The former president Laurent Gbagbo and former youth minister Blé Goudé were acquitted by Trial Chamber I on 15 January 2019.
Situation phase: 
Investigation – ongoing
Côte d’Ivoire ratified the Rome Statute in 2013 following a decade long civil society campaign coordinated by the Côte d’Ivoire Coalition for the ICC. Partial implementation of ICC crimes into national law followed in 2014. On 3 October 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III granted the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation proprio motu in the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

The investigation has focused on alleged crimes against humanity committed during the 2010/2011 post-electoral violence in Côte d'Ivoire. According to reports, the post-election violence erupted after Presidential election results between opponents Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Alassane Ouattara were disputed.  Gbagbo refused to hand over power to Alassane Ouattara, the current president of Côte d'Ivoire and about 3000 people died in the post-election violence. The Prosecutor brought charges against Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé for alleged crimes against humanity (murder, rape, other inhumane acts or and persecution) allegedly committed in the context of post-electoral violence in Côte d'Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.

The cases of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé were joined in 2015 and the trial opened on 28 January 2016. After the Defence of Charles Blé Goudé filed a No Case to Answer Motion Trial Chamber III acquitted Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé from all charges of crimes against humanity in a controversial judgment. The written decision was published recently by the Court. 

Civil war resumed: 2010-11 post-election violence Violence erupted in and around Abidjan in the five months following Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010 disputed presidential election. Incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo challenged the outcome in favor of his rival Allasane Ouattara and refused to cede power. The ensuing violence resulted in at least 3,000 dead, several thousand injured, missing and raped, and over 100,000 displaced. The violence marked a resumption of the country's 2002-07 civil war, widely characterized by ethnic tensions between rebels in the north of the country and the government-held south, including the capital Abidjan. The conflict was ended following the intervention of international military forces, led by France, with Ouattara assuming the presidency.
ICC situation

First state to accept ICC jurisdiction as a non-member  

Côte d’Ivoire signed the Rome Statute in 1998 but did not formally ratify the Court’s founding treaty until 2013. In 2003, Côte d’Ivoire became the first state to accept the Court’s jurisdiction through a special mechanism for non-ICC member states under Article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute. Côte d'Ivoire reaffirmed its acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction through two separate communications to the ICC in 2010 and 2011. Full ratification, and implementation, of the Rome Statute came in 2013 after years of civil society advocacy.  

ICC prosecutor investigates Côte d’Ivoire 2010-11 post-election violence 

After conducting a preliminary examination of the situation in Côte d'Ivoire from 2003 onward, the ICC prosecutor independently requested a formal investigation (proprio motu request). In 2004, ICC pre-trial judges authorized the prosecutor to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed following the country's disputed presidential election of 28 November 2010.  It was the second time that the prosecutor had opened an investigation on a proprio motu basis. 

ICC arrest warrants for Gbagbo camp 

In the first cases opened by the ICC, the prosecutor alleges that Laurent Gbagbo and his inner circle, including former first lady Simone Gbagbo and youth leader Charles Blé Goudé, created and executed a common plan to hold on to power after losing the 2010 presidential election by encouraging attacks on the supporters of president-elect Alassane Ouattara. The Gbagbo-Blé Goudé ICC trial began in 2016. Simone Gbagbo was convicted by an Ivorian court but remains wanted by the ICC.  In 2019, Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were released after an acquittal by Trial Chamber I. According to the judges, the Prosecutor failed to satisfy the burden of proof. Simone Gbagbo, the former first lady of Côte d'Ivoire was convicted by an Ivorian court but remains wanted by the ICC. 

Investigative timeframe extended back to 2002 

In February 2012, at the request of ICC judges, the ICC prosecutor provided additional information on potential crimes committed in the context of Côte d’Ivoire’s civil war during the years 2002-2010. Based on their assessment of this information, the judges expanded authorization for the investigation to cover the period from 19 September 2002 to 28 November 2010. They considered that the violent events in Côte d’Ivoire during this period (including relevant events since 28 November 2010) formed a single situation, in which an ongoing political crisis and power-struggle culminated in the events that the Pre-Trial Chamber had earlier authorized the prosecutor to investigate.

National prosecutions

A complicated path to national justice 

In 2003, the Ivorian Constitutional Court ruled that the Rome Statute was incompatible with the constitution. In 2012, parliament finally passed legislation amending the constitution, leading to ratification of the Rome Statute the following year. 

In 2014, the Ivorian Parliament adopted amendments to bring the country’s criminal and criminal procedure codes into line with the Rome Statute. While the amendments allow prosecution of ICC crimes and in fact define war crimes more broadly than the Rome Statute does, they do not include any provisions to strengthen cooperation with the ICC. The legislation enables impunity through escape clauses that provide immunity based on official capacity and the possibility of presidential pardon.  

In March 2015, former first lady Simone Gbagbo was convicted of charges related to undermining state security by an Ivorian court and sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.. ICC judges, however, believe the national proceedings still do not reflect the gravity of the charges at the ICC and have ruled that Simone Gbagbo should be transferred to The Hague to face trial.

Civil society groups have also supported cases in national courts for victims and communities that the ICC has not been able to accommodate. 

Civil society advocacy

Civil society in Côte d’Ivoire 

The Côte d’Ivoire Coalition for the ICC is one of the most active national civil society networks working to advance justice for grave international crimes. Through a range of awareness-raising activities along with advocacy with national and international actors, the Côte d’Ivoire Coalition successfully campaigned for ratification and partial implementation of the Rome Statute. The Coalition continues to work with the government to reform the national judicial system’s capacity to prosecute grave international crimes and cooperate with the ICC.  

One sided justice? 

Civil society, including global and local Ivorian organizations, urge the ICC and Ivorian government to ensure all sides to the conflict are prosecuted for grave crimes. The prosecutor has repeatedly emphasized that investigations are ongoing, and therefore, all of those responsible for the crimes will be held accountable. 

The Coalition and various members have warned that a lack of local ICC presence and outreach in the country would deepen already highly polarized public opinion in the country.