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Côte d'Ivoire

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Last updated on 21.06.2018 at 08:24

Côte d’Ivoire-Overview

Space for civil society received an important boost in 2014 with the enactment of a law to protect human rights defenders.

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Harsh sentences for 18 opposition protesters

Harsh sentences for 18 opposition protesters

On 6th April 2018, a court in Abidjan condemned 18 protesters to 12 days in prison and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (95 USD) for participating in an opposition protest on 22nd March to demand a reform of the Independent Election Commission.

Peaceful Assembly

On 6th April 2018, a court in Abidjan sentenced 18 protesters to 12 days in prison and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (95 USD) on charges of disturbing public order for participating in an opposition protest on 22nd March to demand reform of the Independent Election Commission. Additionally, the 18 were deprived of their civic rights, including the right to vote, for five years. Most of those sentenced are opposition figures. The opposition platform Ensemble pour la Démocratie et la Souveraineté (Together for Democracy and Sovereignty) called for the protest on 22nd March in light of the Senate elections on 24th March. Security forces prevented the protest in the neighbourhood of Adjamé in Abidjan, which authorities had banned the previous day, stating that there was no agreement on the protest route. According to media reports, security forces arrested about 50 people, and tear gas was fired. 

From 22nd to 24th May, teachers and researchers of public universities organised a three-day strike to denounce, among others, poor governance in public universities and research centres and the working conditions, such as the hourly rate and the restoration and augmentation of a housing allowance, a benefit which teachers enjoyed in the 1980s. The strike was organised after a General Assembly of Coordination Nationale des Enseignants du Supérieur et des Chercheurs de Côte d’Ivoire (National Association of Teachers and Researchers of Côte d'Ivoire - CNEC). 

On 6th June, over 1,200 students of the National Institute of Youth and Sports protested in Abidjan over the death of a schoolmate at the institute, Dié Eric Privat, who hit his head against a handball goal post, and could not get treatment because the medical centre was closed. The protesters denounced the lack of medical staff at the Institute and the poor living conditions of the students. They blocked the Henri Konan Bedie bridge, the third main bridge in Abidjan. According to media reports, protesters threw stones, while riot police used tear gas to disperse the protesters. After a dialogue between the authorities of the Ministry of Sports and Leisure and the students, the authorities announced an investigation into the death of student Dié Eric Privat as well as the suspension of the director of the Centre of Sport Medicine and the allocation of 17 of 33 buildings with a capacity of 2,000 beds to the students for the next academic year. 

Expression

After the publication of an article exposing corruption within the customs agency on 24th April, which led to the arrest of the managing director of said agency, journalist Antoine Assalé Tiémoko of the satirical newspaper L’Éléphant Déchaîné received several death threats, according to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The journalist has faced intimidation, threats, judicial harassment for years as well as survived a murder attempt in December 2014. 

During the opposition protest on 22nd March, security officers arrested journalist Landry Beugré of the daily L’Intelligent d’Abidjan while he was conducting an interview. Police officers also arrested and physically assaulted journalist and blogger Coulibaly Daouda, while other journalists were dispersed with tear gas and/or prevented from doing their work. Such violent actions were condemned in a statement by the Syndicat National des Professionnels de la Presse de Côte d’Ivoire (National Union of Press Professionals of Cote d'Ivoire).

Association

CSOs and human rights defenders pursue a wide range of causes, typically without interference from the state or non-state actors.

CSOs and human rights defenders pursue a wide range of causes, typically without interference from the state or non-state actors. People in Côte d’Ivoire benefit from strong legal protections of their right to associate freely, including under Article 13 of the constitution, which allows for groups to form and operate so long as they respect the principles of national sovereignty and of democracy. African and international human rights treaties to which Côte d’Ivoire is a state party provide additional legal protections for CSOs and activists. A law passed in 2014 explicitly protects human rights defenders, although the government has yet to adopt practical measures to ensure its provisions are implemented. Despite the lack of progress from bureaucrats, civil society organisations have gone ahead to conduct their own activities to improve awareness of the law and its application by the police. While the 2014 law represents a significant victory for human rights defenders, activists promoting the rights of LGBTI people continue to face discrimination and sometimes violent attacks from members of the public. Unconfirmed reports from September 2015 indicated that a senior police official was fired for failing to intervene during a mob attack on the offices of an LGBTI organisation in January 2014.


Peaceful Assembly in Côte d’Ivoire

Constitutional protections aside, people in Côte d’Ivoire cannot be certain that their right to assemble peacefully in public will always be upheld.

Constitutional protections aside, people in Côte d’Ivoire cannot be certain that their right to assemble peacefully in public will always be upheld. Anti-government demonstrations, or those considered to be ‘prejudicial to public order’, are regularly prevented or forcefully disrupted by the security forces. The law requires groups wishing to hold demonstrations in stadiums or other enclosed spaces to submit a written notice to the Ministry of Interior three days before the proposed event. Protests turned violent in April 2016 at a university in Abidjan, where gatherings have been banned since the current government took power in 2011. Other recent protests, particularly those before and during the 2015 elections, were also prevented by the authorities.


Expression in Côte d’Ivoire

Constitutional provisions provide that everyone shall have the right to express and disseminate his or her ideas freely.

Constitutional provisions provide that everyone shall have the right to express and disseminate his or her ideas freely. However, in practice, there are restrictions on press freedom and the government exercises considerable influence over news coverage and programme content on the government-run television channels. In addition, a national communication council exerts less pressure on pro-government journalists than they do on others. The National Assembly introduced a freedom of information law in 2014, although a libel law continues to punish anyone critical of government policies. Freedom of expression on the Internet and social media is respected and 15% of people had internet access in 2014, a rapid increase from 5% in 2012.