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Côte d’Ivoire: UN expert urges Government to allow rights defenders to play their role for reconciliation and progress

GENEVA (7 March 2014) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Cote d’Ivoire, Doudou Diène, today called on the authorities to take all necessary measures to allow human rights defenders organisations to play their role for the reconciliation and consolidation of progress in the country.

“An independent and active civil society is central for the reconstruction of a pluralist democracy and for the national reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire”, Mr. Diène stressed.

The Independent Expert’s appeal comes after security forces, without legal mandate, banned a seminar on the Remobilization of the Ivorian Civil Society Federation, which was due to take place at the Research and Action Center for Peace in Abidjan on 27 February 2014.

“Banning a meeting planned by the Ivorian Civil Society Federation is a step back considering the progress already achieved since the end of the post electoral crisis,” the expert said, recalling positive moves to establish the Rule of Law and institutions able to promote and defend human rights, including the creation of the National Commission of Human Rights.

“In the dynamic of institutional progress achieved in the promotion of human rights, I call upon the authorities to take the appropriate measures to allow human rights defenders organisations in general, and the Civil Society Federation in particular, to play their role and to contribute to the consolidation of progress in Côte d’Ivoire,” Mr. Diène said.

The Independent Expert noted the Ivorian Civil Society Federation’s active and substantial participation during the recent “International conference on the situation of the victims of the Ivorian crisis”, organised by him last February, and highlighted “the remarkable commitment of this organization in the promotion of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire.”

In a previous report* to the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Diène had warned that “the decision of the Abidjan prosecutor’s office to refuse the Ivorian Civil Society Federation access to its administrative premises following an internal dispute - despite a court decision- is likely to raise doubts about the willingness in some quarters of government to guarantee freedom of association.”

“Civil society should be strong, independent and have sufficient resources to play a central role in guaranteeing a democratic multiparty system, a role that should have full political recognition and appropriate legal protection” the Independent Expert reiterated.

“An independent civil society has a crucial role to play in the fight against impunity, the promotion of equitable justice as well as in the organization of peaceful and fair elections in 2015” he concluded.

(*) Check the Independent Expert 2013 report to the UN General Assembly (A/HRC/23/38): http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_f.aspx?c=45&su=54

Mr. Doudou Diène (Senegal) took up his functions as UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d'Ivoire in 2011. In that capacity, he acts independently from any Government or organization. Mr. Diène was previously the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in 2002-2008.

The mandate of the Independent Expert was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011 for a period of one year to assist the Government and relevant actors in the follow-up of the recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry on Côte d’Ivoire and the Human Rights Council, including the ones addressed to the international community. The mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council in June 2013 for one year.

Check the Independent Expert’s latest report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Pages/ListReports.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Cote d’Ivoire: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CIIndex.aspx

For additional information and media requests, please contact Johel Dominique (+41 22 928 9398 / jdominique@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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