25 November 2010
In the run-up to the second round of the Côte d’Ivoire presidential election, which is due to take place on Sunday 28 November 2010, ACAT-France, Amnesty International and FIACAT call on the two candidates – the incumbent president and candidate of the presidential majority (LMP), Laurent Gbagbo, and the candidate of the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), Alassane Ouattara – to abstain from statements and actions liable to trigger political and inter-ethnic violence which might discredit the electoral process and plunge the country into chaos.
The last few days have seen an escalation of verbal exchanges between the two candidates, who have traded accusations of provoking "political violence" in the country.
On Friday, 19 November 2010, violent clashes broke out between members of the Federation of University and High School Students of Côte d’Ivoire (FESCI) – a student union regarded as close to the LMP – and young members of the RHDP, close to the RHDP’s headquarters in the Cocody district of Abidjan. A French journalist working in Côte d’Ivoire was violently attacked by persons assumed to be members of the FESCI and had to be treated in hospital. The security forces on the spot were slow to intervene to stop the scuffles, which suggests bias in favour of the FESCI. There were several dozen injured.
This rise in tension is worrying and may undermine the fragile stability of Côte d’Ivoire if there is further political or inter-ethnic violence. Our organisations are aware of pamphlets inciting inter-communal violence, in particular a "Call to the peoples of the Greater West" stating that "the hour of vengeance has come" and that "the time has come to recover our lands". Such incitement to hatred is intolerable and those responsible must be made to answer for their actions in court.
In the televised debate scheduled for the evening of Thursday, 25 November, the two candidates must respect the code of conduct signed by their parties in 2008 under the auspices of the United Nations and use restrained, moderate and unprovocative language. We urge them to appeal for the public and in particular young people and students to remain calm and to prepare their supporters for the possibility that they may not win the election.
At the same time, our organisations call on the Côte d’Ivoire authorities to:
make it a primary concern to safeguard human rights before, during and after the poll;
ensure that all citizens of the country can participate in the second round of the elections freely and without intimidation;
call on the media and journalists to adopt a professional approach to information and coverage of the elections and to comply with good professional practice and ethics;
make clear to the security forces that they may on no account interfere with the electoral process or commit infringements of human rights and that they will have to answer for any such breaches before the courts.
Our organisations also appeal to the international community, which has worked hard to restore peace in Côte d’Ivoire and ensure that these elections proceed smoothly, to make clear that it will not tolerate human rights violations and will call to account those responsible for such acts.
The future head of state must stand surety for scrupulous respect for Ivoirians’ fundamental rights. To this end, he must promote reforms in the field of human rights, establishing independent and impartial arrangements within the national judicial system to bring to justice those suspected of serious human rights violations.
Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France) – Clément Boursin, Africa programmes desk, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +33 (0)1 40 40 02 11
Amnesty International – Salvatore Saguès, West Africa researcher, email@example.com, Tel. +33 (0)1 53 38 65 50
International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) – Marie-Jo Cocher, Executive Secretary, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +33 (0)1 42 80 01 60