The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2014/181) issued on 13 March 2014.
Data on sexual and gender-based violence for 2013 indicate that high levels of sexual violence, particularly rape, continue to be committed. The United Nations has verified 381 cases between January and December, including 62 gang rapes. The slow progress being made in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes, persistent insecurity caused by the presence of armed elements throughout the country and the climate of impunity contribute to a high-risk environment, particularly for women and children. Over 60 per cent of recorded rape survivors were children between the ages of 10 and 18 years; 25 per cent were children aged between 14 months and 10 years. At least 10 women and girls were killed after being raped or died from severe injuries sustained during the assault. The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) notes that while instances of sexual violence were being recorded in the western part of the country, they are now being recorded in the north. In urban areas, the prevalence of small arms and light weapons is linked to insecurity: 63 cases of rape were reported during armed robberies.
A total of 24 incidents of sexual violence investigated by the United Nations in 2013 involved elements of the Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), the police, the gendarmerie or ex-combatants. An incident of particular concern involved the alleged rape of nine women by FRCI members during an eviction operation in the protected forest of Niégré. Although the commanders suspected of involvement are known, to date no one has been held accountable for those incidents. UNOCI notes a high level of impunity for security actors accused of committing crimes of sexual violence, often with the complicity of commanders. Since January 2013, of 15 rape allegations against security and defence forces brought to the attention of the military prosecutor of Abidjan and regional civilian courts, two cases have been tried under civilian jurisdiction, criminal charges were dropped in four cases, while nine investigations are still pending. To date, transitional justice arrangements have addressed none of the 54 incidents of sexual violence reported in connection with the post-election crisis in 2010 and 2011.
In terms of prevention, the limited implementation of disciplinary procedures, the absence of sanctions and a lack of awareness-raising activities on codes of conduct and ethics within national security institutions have presented major challenges. In September 2013, the Ministry of Defence supported an initiative of the Office of my Special Representative in partnership with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to conduct two training workshops for the Ivorian security forces. As a result, a pool of national trainers on conflict-related sexual violence was created to enhance the sustainability of capacity-building efforts. Through a national training programme on investigative techniques and gender-based violence for members of the police and the gendarmerie operating as judicial police officers, delivered by the Ministry of the Interior and supported by United Nations and international partners, a further 300 officers will be trained by June 2014. There have been some improvements in the capacity of actors to detect, prevent and plan responses to sexual violence, and several United Nations training sessions have been held for health personnel throughout the country. While referral mechanisms are in place, access to services continues to be a challenge nationwide.
The lack of a regularly functioning high court since 2001 poses a significant barrier to justice. Despite the efforts of national authorities, the prosecution rate remains low. Alleged perpetrators are often released owing to insufficient evidence and rape often continues to be reclassified as indecent assault, a lesser offence. The United Nations has verified 26 cases in which survivors opted to settle out of court as a result of social pressure, lengthy judicial procedures, lenient sentences and the cost of medical certificates. In June 2013, the Government adopted a national justice policy that envisages improvements with respect to service delivery, access to justice, legal documentation for vulnerable persons and a review of the legal framework on women’s rights and protection. In August 2013, a national legal review aimed at reforming criminal and civil codes was initiated by the Ministry of Justice. Other initiatives are under way to review issues related to legal aid, victim and witness protection, and representation.
I urge the Government to ensure the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to prevent sexual violence and to improve access to justice and other services for survivors.