International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Peace and Justice for Côte d’Ivoire

The issue of accountability for crimes committed in the current crisis in Côte d’Ivoire will come to the fore during the present UN-led negotiations for Gbagbo’s surrender and especially in the political transition that is soon to come once Ouattara is in power. Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the Rome Statute and has not yet ratified, but has accepted ICC jurisdiction. Therefore Ocampo could initiate an investigation without referral from the Security Council.

If the ICC intends to investigate crimes committed on all sides, it will have the difficult task of establishing whether both Gbagbo and Ouattara had enough control and command over forces “loyal” to them to be held responsible for atrocities committed by these forces. Also, the ICC will have to decide whether its investigations are limited to crimes committed in the present crisis or extend the temporal jurisdiction back far enough to encompass a broader range of crimes committed in this political contest.

1) Should the international community endorse an amnesty-for-peace deal for Gbagbo?

2) What crimes have been committed and are they of sufficient gravity to warrant an investigation by the International Criminal Court?

3) What should the international community demand of the forthcoming government in Cote d’Ivoire in terms of accountability?

Feel free to address the above questions or post news and updates related to the crimes committed, who is responsible, and the ICC’s intentions.

Also, take a look at this incredible photo essay on the violence and key players.


21 responses to “Peace and Justice for Côte d’Ivoire

  1. ejpleasant April 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I think the international community should endorse an amnesty-for-peace deal for Ghagbo if that is what has been deemed will inspire peace in Côte d’Ivoire. I don’t mean to sound demeaning but this is a civil war that could have spiraled much farther out of control than it has. Hundreds of innocent people have been killed during the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire and the UN has condemned these actions has human rights violations. I think the International Criminal Court should conduct some kind of investigation and move on from there. This conflict is kind of ambiguous on where to place blame. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara have been accused of not having full control of the violent forces. Any situation that causes massive amounts of innocent people to suffer or die must be dealt with. At the same time this is not a situation like in Rwanda. A much smaller number of people have been killed. If granting amnesty right now will help stabilize Côte d’Ivoire than that is what should be done. Preserving peace should be their #1 priority. Since the number of victims killed is relatively low I think the international community should encourage Côte d’Ivoire to provide reparations to its people. The majority of people victimized have been displaced. In my opinion it would be best for Ouattara to provide a program that would help the displaced to return home and the families of the dead to receive some sort of memorialization and some form of gain whether it be monetary or not.


  2. mara.m April 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    I agree with EJP, I think the international community should endorse an amnesty-for-peace deal for Ghagbo. I have been reading about the situation in Cote D’Ivoire on Al Jazeera, and it seems that the two parallel governments led by Ouattara and Ghagbo both have forces loyal to them, both sides are committing atrocities. Ghagbo has made a statement to the French press that he is refusing to step down, but perhaps it’s because he’s concerned that if he were officially step down and let Ouattara have complete control, then sanctions will be made against him. I think the promises that Ouattara is making to victims should be followed through, and that those who were victims to pillaging should be receive reparations, but the cynical part of me thinks that this may be an empty promise. If an amnesty deal were to be given to Ghagbo, would it really bring about peace? If the forces are only loyal to Ghagbo but not necessarily taking orders from him, then how could the amnesty and a cease-fire be enforced? I just think since the UN constructed the elections and has such a heavy force of “peace keepers” in the Cote D’Ivoire, then they should make peace-keeping their top priority. I think if an international endorsed amnesty were granted, then victims on both sides of the conflict should have the right to reparations.

  3. chrisumass April 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I would agree that in order to ensure peace and stabilize the situation an amnesty fro Gbagbo would be a good step in taking. Once the situation has died down and investigations can commence without the fear of operating in a conflict, a decision can be made. An amnesty can always be turned back upon, which will make perpetrators less likely to accept amnesty terms. However if your choice is momentary amnesty or death, you’re more likely to take the amnesty. Also I don’t feel bad lying to mass murderers and dictators, promises of amnesty should be used as a way to lower the guards of the perpetrators. On the other hand if an amnesty were to make a situation spiral deeper into conflict, then I would advise against it. Amnesty should be used as a tool, promises with evil men shouldn’t really hold any merit.

  4. cbilgrie April 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I have mixed feelings about giving Ghagbo (and any leader or commander for that matter) blanket amnesty in exchange for a cease fire and peace. As the previous posts have pointed out, giving out amnesty can secure peace in a nation, and the situation in Cote D’Ivoire could certainly have been much worse. Having said that, I feel like any amount of amnesty (especially if the U.N., ICC and the various member states turn a blind eye to the atrocities), only encourages other dictators to commit atrocities knowing that they will not be prosecuted. Is peace in one nation really better than fighting if there is a risk that it could encourage other dictators to commit similar crimes and that they will not be tried? Obviously this is speculation and peace should still be sought but at some point, the perpetrators need to be brought to justice.

  5. alaael April 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    There is a strong case for offering amnesty to Laurent Gbabgo in Cote D’Ivoire. He has refused to give up power after losing the last elections in which he won 46% of the vote. That means that he still has (or had) support amongst a large segment of the population. Complicating matters, most of his supporters are Christians from the South and West of the country, while his opponent, Mr. Ouattara, is mainly supported by Muslims from the North of the country; therefore a key challenge once Mr. Gbagbo is ousted will be promote national healing – perhaps through a unity government. Moreover, Mr. Gbagbo armed some of his most zealous supporters during the ongoing standoff which has now lasted for four months. They will have to be disarmed at some point, hopefully without further bloodshed.
    Considering that both sides of the conflict have committed atrocities – around 800 people have died so far – I would recommend an amnesty to all sides from responsibility for the bloodshed which occurred, provided people lay down their arms. As for Mr. Gbabgo, he should be tried for refusing to relinquish power, but nothing else.

  6. ayingling April 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    In my opinion, Cote D’Ivoire is a good example where an amnesty deal could be effective. The International community should support an amnesty for peace deal in Côte d’Ivoire as long the country is in favor as well. The deal could potential bring an end to violence before it escalates to a higher level and help the divided country transfer power to Ouattara. Although Gbagbo seems stuck on staying in power, maybe this will be the only means to get him out. I also think it’s important for reparations to be giving to victims as the death toll is increasing, lawlessness, etc. With the amnesty deal, victims would no longer be able to receive reparation from perpetrators who have been granted the deal, but it seems like Ouattara has taken the lead in bringing transitional justice and promoting the government’s responsibility to contribute.

  7. Alana Tiemessen April 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I’m somewhat surprised by the general agreement that Gbagbo should get an amnesty deal! But what about the option of reneging on that amnesty down the road…..Gbagbo would surely be aware of this possibility (given the trend in some Latin American countries, e.g. Argentina, to do so) and an amnesty offer might not be credible to him.
    Also – what do you think of Outtara’s offer to set up a truth and reconciliation commission?
    This wouldn’t necessarily have to impede any ICC investigation and trials, depending on the mandate of this TRC.

  8. julespc April 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    This article questions Gbagbo’s involvement in the terrible crimes commit since the elections, and whether he is responsible for orders of rape, civilian murder, and other crimes against humanity/ war crimes. I generally disagree with those who say Gbagbo should get a amnesty deal right out of the gate. First, Gbagbo has encouraged an ICC investigation. Leaders under scrutiny for war crimes don’t generally encourage or accept ICC investigations against them unless they know they are innocent or that there is not enough evidence to convict them. Whatever the reason, the fact that Gbagbo is not opposed to an investigation is a starting point. I do not know whether Gbagbo is directly responsible for the crimes committed on the ground, but we need to understand the general pattern of violence in Africa, especially during a civil war. Gbagbo is not necessarily commanding the forces to commit rape, pillage, or kill ordinary civilians. Ivory Coast is in the midst of a brutal battle for control, and these civil wars are inherent to atrocious crimes that can be carried out by anybody whether ordered to do so or by their own command. That being said, the ICC should carry out the investigation and if evidence suggests that Gbagbo is guilty than he should be tried and jailed.

  9. emkayumass April 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I in know way condone authoritarian rule but I find myself understanding Gbagbo’s logic for refusing to step down. The international community played a huge role in the elections of sovereign state, why is that? Alaael brings up a lot of points I agree with. Gbagbo clearly has support based on the elections. The support of Gbagbo and Ouattara seems to be based on ethnic ties than anything else, who is to say that bringing Ouattara to power will bring stability to Ivory Coast, especially since the Constitutional Council supports Gbagbo? Since the number of deaths and crimes committed seems relatively low it’s a possibility that the violence was the doings of individual disloyal soldiers rather than preconceived strategies of legitimate political actors. It seems as though this is an issue to be kept at the local level where the actual perpetrators are prosecuted for their brutality. If Ivorians, the AU, and Ecowas want Gbagbo to step down he should be granted amnesty in exchange for his resignation. Outtara’s forces are committing the same atrocities, like pillaging and civilian killings, as Gbagbo’s but he is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the international community. Gbagbo has power if not legitimacy so a compromise is necessary. The transitional government should create memorials, offer local tribunals, and dole out reparations to the victims and families of victims. The situation seems like it can be kept under control as long as the right negotiations are made as soon as possible.

  10. umassastick April 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    As far as an amnesty for Gbagbo is concerned, I don’t think it is necessary or appropriate for this situation. This whole situation is kind of mind-boggling to me. Maybe I’m naive, or maybe I’m just giving the international community way too much credit (wrong word), but I don’t see why a little recon mission can’t just get this guy out. I mean, he’s not even legitimately an authority figure anymore, he was voted out and Ouattara in so I don’t see why the international community is acting like it has no power here. The US alone has had no problem ousting other dictators and such in the past.. what gives? Having said that, if the international community wants to act all noble and legitimate and whatnot, then I still don’t think an amnesty is the way to go for a couple reasons. To begin with, as many have already said, the crimes have been committed on both sides which complicates matters. Also, the extent of the crimes is semi-unknown as well– another complication. Also, we aren’t really sure how far the power of either Gbagbo and Outtara extends to their supporters, so we don’t know how responsible they are for the crimes being committed by soldiers and civilian fighters. I definitely think the international community needs to step in, but I don’t think an amnesty is the intervention the Ivory Coast needs.

  11. ejbrewster April 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I think that offering amnesty to Laurent Gbabgo in Cote D’Ivoire is an instance where amnesty can help the community, and the international community as a whole. He refuses to leave power although he lost the popular vote. He did not however, lose by a large margin and about 46% of the country had his support. Gbadgo still has a good deal of political clout and has armed supporters who only he can control. Giving him Amnesty would enable the amount of future bloodshed to be greatly diminished. Due to the fact that their were atrocities committed on both sides and so many people have died that it would be more beneficial to achieve peace as quickly as possible. As far as revoking amnesty later on I think that should not happen, or at least it should certainly not become a habit, if people are given amnesty and then begin to expect it to be taken away the honesty brought about by giving amnesty is compromised. I think that amnesty should be offered, and I think that it should be absolute. If Gbabgo commits future crimes he can be appropriately prosecuted, but anything that he is granted amnesty for should be put to rest in the best interest in making peace in the nation.

  12. jmhaigh April 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    It seems a little backwards for the international community to grant an amnesty for Gbagbo, even if their intentions are said to be in the desire of progress. On paper, it seems as though an amnesty is going to be used to oust someone who was already ousted, and who is already internationally recognized as not having power. On a large scale, it seems as though the amnesty could be used to prevent a large scale civil war – some thing that looks like it is already happening (referring to the picture-essay on “”). The international community, if they do still support an amnesty, would be doing so in appeasement. An amnesty promotes peace in the now, but it does not seem to do much for the future or the past. Gbagbo’s acts as head of state, and even the events that have unfolded since his refusal to leave, should not be easily forgiven. Everyone should have to atone for their acts, and the international community should not ruin an opportunity to make an example of a poor ruler. In fact, what kind of message are we saying if we allow an amnesty for someone who has committed prior bad acts, and further continues their bad habits? An amnesty seems to say, “You’ve done something wrong, but we are going to forgive you just so you stop.” The hammer should fall hard in this case. The international community should not back down about this one. It is time that those in power are brought to justice, and tried in a court. A pardon may be warranted in the years following a ruling, but only as a sign that the general population has coped with the turmoil of the past, and is ready to forgive and move on.

  13. Alana Tiemessen April 10, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    This is a really good summary of the current state of the conflict – including shades of grey on who the good and bad guys are and why it’s been tough to dislodge Gbagbo.

  14. alaael April 11, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Just a quick update, Gbagbo has been arrested – hopefully that means that now there will be peace in the Cote D’ivoire

  15. Alana Tiemessen April 11, 2011 at 10:22 am

    indeed! well i’m sure amnesty is off the table. two issues:
    1) there’s some confusion as to who actually arrested him. Some saw Outtara’s forces, some say the French. Some say a coordinated effort of the two. But if it was the French there’s a downside to the legitimacy of Outtara’s rule that would follow…..perceptions of neo-colonial regime change is not a good way to break from the past.
    2) Who will try him? France, Cote d’Ivoire, or ICC? There are no ICC charges yet…

    • umassastick April 11, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      In reference to both of these points, I’m curious as to the implications for each. What I mean to say is, I wonder what the reaction of the Ivorian community and even the international community will be if it turns out it was largely a French or Outtara-backed, or whomever-mission that took Gbagbo in. Does it matter or is the only important thing that he was finally arrested? I think that Gbagbo’s popularity is a huge factor in this determination because, with almost half of the country backing him, it’s unlikely that a French intervention that bagged Gbagbo is going to be looked at too kindly by his supporters. I guess it would also be a question of Ivorian culture, since, as we’ve seen in other cases studies (ie Sudan) some are less enthusiastic than others about outside intervention in general, never mind in such a high profile arrest. On the other hand, I’m not sure it would be better if it was actually determined that Outtara’s forces are responsible for the capture and arrest because this might divide the Ivorian people even more so than they already are. I’m also curious to see what the next course of action is as far as addressing the people go (both victims and perps). I assume Outtara is going to resume his rightful role as President and everything that goes along with that, but will his first move in a position of authority be one of revenge or reconciliation? I’m sure, with the whole world staring at him he couldn’t get away with much if he were to choose the former path, but that’s not to say it could not happen eventually somehow…

  16. julespc April 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Now that Outtara is being handed the presidency it will be interesting to see (as the above comment mentions) how he will deal with reconciliation and if revenge is part of his plan. I think its important to look at similar conflicts or ethnic conflicts in general and see how transitional regimes deal with the identity issue. In Rwanda, the new gov. established the idea of one identity (Rwandan) and originally focused on rebuilding, justice, and reconciliation. But slowly the Rwandan regime under Kagame has found subtle ways to oppress Hutus and not guarantee justice for both sides. It will be imperative for Outtara to look at reconciliation and justice as protecting both sides of the conflict, because crimes were committed by both sides. It is likely however that under the scrutiny of the international community, Quttara will play his role as a rebuilder and not try anything that will risk violence or outcry. The international community will have to keep an eye on the Cote d’Ivoire in the coming years to protect against any kind of revenge effort.

  17. ehsaunde April 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Both sides are committing atrocities, so why should Gbagbo be the only one charged? I’m not saying that he doesn’t deserve what is coming to him, but to be fair, he isn’t the only one at fault. It is important to realize that Outtara’s legitimacy has been tainted and peace in Cote d’Ivoire is not likely to be achieved through his regime. Supports of both sides have their reasoning and since the election was so close, it is wrong to believe that one leader is more qualified that the other. Personally, I believe that both Gbagbo and Outtara are equally not right for the position. I think the real solution would be to 1) reform the ideas of hatred towards people from different parts of the country (even though that is a long shot and not really feasible) and 2) find another candidate that everyone can agree on. It will be interesting to see, as Professor said, who charges Gbagbo and also how the country reacts to the Outtara administration now that it is officially recognized.

  18. myongha April 13, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    This case reminds me of the victor’s justice. As many of people pointed out, both Gbagbo and Outtara committed crimes against humanity during the civil war. However, it appears that Outtara’s crimes have forgotten since he is a “winner” in this conflict. For the sake of justice, both of them must be prosecuted and judged by the law. Unfortunately, the ICC would face many challenges if it tried to prosecute Outtara. He is now an international recognized president in Côte d’Ivoire, and realistically there is no candidate that can replace him at this point. If the ICC tried to prosecute him, it might bring another serious conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. Moreover, there have been always issues with sovereignty since the ICC was created. Considering that Côte d’Ivoire is not a state party of the Rome Statute, the ICC has no jurisdiction over Côte d’Ivoire unless the UN Security Council refers the case to the ICC. In order to minimize the chance of another civil war and maximize the legitimacy of prosecution against Outtara, the ICC needs to take a cautious step.

  19. alaael May 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Today’s news from Yopougon, a town close to Abidjan seems to be a threat to a final resolution of the conflict, but it could be an opportunity. The BBC reports that the UN’s chief human rights commissioner in the Ivory Coast is investigating the causes behind a mass grave with 50 bodies found in an area which has been controlled by Mr Gbabgo’s forces until last last week. Although this could just be further evidence against the former president, President Ouattara should use this as an opportunity to ask the United Nations compile a report of alleged abuses, and they should offer amnesties to everybody except Mr Gbabgo and his immediate aides.

%d bloggers like this: