Week in Review: Ivorian amnesty and Bemba acquittal provoke reactions

Week in Review: Ivorian amnesty and Bemba acquittal provoke reactions©@Flickr/IFRC
Amid the ruins of a destroyed house in Abidjan during the 2010-2011 crisis
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In Côte d’Ivoire, the main transitional justice focus remained an amnesty granted on August 6 by President Ouattara to 700 people convicted or charged in relation to the post-election crisis of 2010-2011.

In an August 17 declaration on its website, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Côte d’Ivoire said it “welcomes this historic amnesty by the President of the Republic, which is a strong contribution to forgiveness and reconciliation, both conducive to stability, development and people’s wellbeing”. The declaration hails what it calls a “decision that carries hope”, whilst also urging the head of State to “continue act ions that help bring together all the children of our common home, Côte d’Ivoire”. The episcopal conference calls on the Ivorian political class to “offer words of peace and truly work for reconciliation, in line with the new dynamic the head of State has launched for the future of the nation”. Finally it “invites those granted amnesty, who should be received in brotherhood, to cultivate a patriotic spirit that promotes forgiveness, peaceful hearts and a healthy socio-political climate”.

The amnesty decision by President Ouattara two years before the end of his second mandate is nevertheless considered by human rights organizations as a blow to victims.

Distrust of the ICC

There is also disappointment among Central African victims of crimes perpetrated in 2002 and 2003 by forces of Congolese ex-rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was acquitted on June 8 by the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Lawyer Marie-Edith Douzima, who represented more than 5,000 victims in this case, told JusticeInfo in an interview in Bangui that there is deep distrust of the Court and of international justice in general. “The situation is very tense,” she said. “The acquittal was a heavy blow. Nobody among the victims or the population had imagined it possible. When I arrived in Bangui, people were threatening to “trash” the local office of the ICC. The volunteers who help contacts between my team and the victims were being targeted with accusations. I would say that I arrived at the right moment and it was necessary to explain. I held several meetings in Bangui, I called many victims personally, I invited others to come to the capital and I also contacted almost all the radio stations to make interactive programmes where listeners could ask questions.” 

US sanctions Myanmar military

Outside the African continent, the United States announced on August 17 that it has imposed sanctions on four Burmese military commanders for “ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims. The four include Aung Kyaw Zaw, who Washington says controlled military police and border guard operations in the south and southwest of Myanmar from 2015 to the beginning of 2018. These sanctions allow US authorities to seize or freeze assets of the people in question. American citizens are also banned from doing any transactions with them.