The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2015/203) issued on 23 March 2015.
In 2014, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) documented 325 cases of rape, with 230 of the incidents committed against minors aged between 2 and 17 years, including 1 boy. Fifty-seven of the incidents were gang rapes, which tend to be committed during carjackings or in private homes during armed robberies. The presence of criminal elements across the country, combined with incomplete disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, weak law enforcement and the absence of a regularly functioning high court, puts women and children at risk. The risks are greatest in the western and northern parts of the country, which have the highest concentrations of ex-combatants. For example, sexual violence remains high in Bouaké, where many ex-combatants who are motorcycle, bus and taxi drivers have been involved in robbery and rape at gunpoint. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons exacerbates insecurity. The national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, with support from UNOCI, has integrated gender training into its resocialization camp for former combatants in an attempt to mitigate the threat of sexual violence. During the period under review, 20 members of the Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), one policeman and nine ex combatants were reportedly involved in incidents of rape, though only three have since been arrested.
Where alleged perpetrators have been prosecuted, sexual violence offences are often reclassified as indecent assault (attentat à la pudeur), a lesser charge, so that they can be processed promptly by first instance courts. Serious crimes are normally tried by criminal courts (cours d’assises); however, these courts are facing a severe backlog. In a positive development, on 18 March, the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Public Liberties issued ministerial circular 005 informing law enforcement officials that a medical certificate (which typically costs US$ 100) is no longer a prerequisite for opening a rape investigation. This removes a significant barrier to justice. Since February 2013, Côte d’Ivoire has embarked upon a process of legal reform, including expanding its restrictive definition of sexual violence (currently limited to rape) and clarifying the elements of sexual violence offences in order to harmonize its criminal and civil codes with international standards. In addition, the Government has drafted a specific law on the protection of victims and witnesses. The Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission submitted its report in December 2014, in which it documented grave violations committed between 1990 and 2011, including sexual violence, and recommended accountability measures.
On 21 July, FRCI established a committee of national experts on conflict-related sexual violence, recalling the Declaration of Commitment made at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London in June. This committee has developed an action plan for FRCI on addressing sexual violence. More than 900 members of FRCI have been trained on gender-based violence to date, as well as over 300 police officers and gendarmes. In November 2014, 20 women cadres from the national police participated in a seminar on female leadership organized by the United Nations police, which focused on strengthening their role in the fight against gender-based violence. The United Nations country team is also supporting the national police to establish specialized units and gender desks. In September 2014, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire officially launched a national strategy to combat gender-based violence, with support from United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict and coordinated by UNFPA.
I urge the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to ensure the effective implementation of its national strategy to combat gender-based violence and the action plan for FRCI, and call on the international community to support these efforts. It is critical to accelerate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and strengthen law enforcement to ensure that ex-combatants who have been reintegrated into the transport sector do not pose a risk to women and girls who are reliant on those services. The Government and the international community must provide monitoring and awareness-raising to mitigate the possibility of a recurrence of sexual violence in the context of the presidential elections to be held in October 2015.