26 opposition protesters arrested, sentenced to prison for ‘disturbing public order’
In October 2023, the UN General Assembly elected 15 new members to the Human Rights Council and Côte d’Ivoire was elected for a second term.
The country held municipal and regional elections on 2nd September 2023, with the ruling party – the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP) – acquiring a majority. The opposition African People’s Party – Ivory Coast (PPA-CI) rejected the election results, citing irregularities at the polling stations.
In June 2023, the Independent Electoral Commission rejected an appeal from Laurent Gbagbo, president of PPA-CI, whose bid to be included on the electoral roll was rejected by the Independent Electoral Commission of Côte d’Ivoire. Laurent Gbagbo, who was the president of Côte d’Ivoire from 2000 to 2011, was acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2019 of war crimes for his role in a civil war, sparked by his refusal to concede defeat after the elections of 2010. In August 2022, President Ouattara pardoned Gbagbo, who faced a 20-year prison sentence in Côte d’Ivoire for a 2019 conviction for the theft of funds from the Central Bank in the post-election period.
Opposition protesters arrested, prosecuted
According to media reports, 31 members of the PPA-CI were arrested on 24th February 2023 for ‘disturbance of public order’ during a protest in Abidjan to show their support to the party’s secretary-general, Damana Pickass, who had been summoned by an investigating judge in relation to an attack on a barracks in 2021. On 10th March 2023, 26 of those members were sentenced to two years in prison, later reduced on appeal to a suspended prison sentence of two years.
Protest by bakers against high flour prices
On 6th February 2023, a ‘bread strike’ - no production of bread - was held in Côte d’Ivoire to protest against the latest increase in the price of flour, organised by the employers’ organisation in the baking and patisserie sector. On 7th February, the strike was suspended.
L’activiste ivoirienne 🇨🇮 et la présidente de l’organisation Alternative Citoyenne, Pulchérie Gbalet, a été libérée sous condition.— L'ACCENT (@Laccent_) February 7, 2023
Incarcérée pour "entente avec les agents d'une puissance étrangère" après une visite au #Mali 🇲🇱, elle est interdite de s’exprimer publiquement. pic.twitter.com/52mzGy8NPC
CSO activist released under conditions
On 3rd February 2023, a judge granted a provisional release, under conditions, to Pulchérie Gbalet, the president of the CSO Alternative Citoyenne Ivorienne (ACI), who had been incarcerated for over five months. As previously reported on the Monitor, police officers arrested Gbalet on 22nd August 2023 on accusations of ‘entente with agents of a foreign power likely to harm the military and diplomatic situation of Côte d’Ivoire’, related to a trip to Mali where she reportedly met with CSOs and individuals close to the military junta in power regarding 46 Ivorian soldiers who had been detained in Mali on accusations of being mercenaries. Conditions for her release include the confiscation of her passport, presenting herself regularly at a police station and not publicly expressing herself on the case.
Environmental rights defenders face harassment
In May 2023, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) reported on attacks against and harassment of human rights defenders, particularly those focused on the environment, in the village of Similimi, where extractive industries have taken a destructive toll on the lives of local residents as well as the surrounding environment. Activists working to protect the rights of those affected by the impact of the extraction of natural resources are in need of greater protection, ISHR asserted.
Côte d'Ivoire: IPI joins @MFWA calling on authorities to end judicial control imposed on journalist Hamed Kassambara.— IPI - The Global Network for Independent Media (@globalfreemedia) March 21, 2023
Since October 2022, Kassambara must report to police every 2 weeks, making a round trip of 1200 km to the capital Abidjan.https://t.co/UeL3ZPo4iG
Journalist arbitrarily detained, placed under judicial supervision
According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), officers of the Investigation Division of the National Gendarmerie in Abidjan arbitrarily detained journalist Hamed Kassambara on 10th October 2022 on accusations of having created a fake Facebook account to publish insulting messages to President Alassane Ouattara. After four days of detention, Kassambara, who works as a programme director for Radio Foundara FM in Ferkessédougou, 600 km away from Abidjan, was transferred to the Maison d’arrêt et de correction d’Abidjan (MACA), where he was detained for another 20 days. On 2nd November 2022, Kassambara was released and placed under judicial supervision, which forbids him from leaving the country and mandates him to present himself to judicial authorities in Abidjan every two weeks. As of March 2023, the journalist was still under judicial supervision and required to make the 1,200 km round trip every two weeks.
Newspaper temporarily suspended; its editor banned from publishing for three months
On 5th April 2023, Côte d’Ivoire’s national media regulator, the Autorité Nationale de la Presse (ANP), suspended the newspaper Le Temps for six issues from 6th April 2023 and banned its publication director, Yacouba Gbané, from writing and publishing for a period of three months. The ANP accuses the newspaper, reportedly close to the opposition PPA-CI of Laurent Gbagbo, of having harmed the judiciary in its edition of 20th March 2023. Le Temps had published a photo of the judge in charge of the investigation into the presumed involvement of PPA-CI secretary general Damana Pickass in the attack on a barracks in 2021. The ANP said that the photo was published “without consent” of the judge and “undermines the secrecy of the investigation”.