Victim Reparations in Côte d’Ivoire

During consultations, three women from Abobo and Yopougon listen to their peers’ recommendations for reparations policies. During consultations, three women from Abobo and Yopougon listen to their peers’ recommendations for reparations policies. © ICTJ

In August 2016 the ICTJ (International Centre for Transitional Justice) released the Recommendations for Victim Reparations in Côte d’Ivoire.

Côte d’Ivoire is obligated to provide reparations to victims of both the political violence that shook the country following the 2010 presidential elections and the different episodes of political violence and armed conflict since 1990. Fulfilling this obligation will show that the state is willing to embark on a new democratic era in which the rights of all Ivorian citizens are respected and guaranteed.

CONARIV (La Commission Nationale pour la Réconciliation et l’Indemnisation des Victimes des crises survenues en Côte d’Ivoire,) made a series of recommendations on reparations and provided an initial list of victims to the government. Now the government must define a policy that is transparent and fair, based on those recommendations and victims’ input.

ICTJ has been working with CONARIV, victims’ groups, and other government entities on reparations since 2012.This has included consultations with youth and victims from some of the most affected areas of the country. The aim is to advance discussions on the best strategy to address the rights of victims of serious human rights and international humanitarian law violations committed by the warring parties.

Four important issues should define a reparations policy: prioritizing violations of the severest nature, limiting reparations to natural persons, reparations should include more than payment of compensation and making sure promises are fulfilled. Based on consultations carried out in different regions of the country, the following types of reparation measures were identified as needed:

  1. Some form of individual reparation, (compensation, rehabilitation and satisfaction).
  2. A set of community measures (including psychosocial support) in neighborhoods or towns with a high concentration of victims.
  3. The search for the missing and the forcibly disappeared.
  4. A reconstruction policy to ensure certain minimum standards of access to social and economic rights, including the right to education and health care (giving priority to the most affected areas).
  5. Symbolic reparations and public apology

The reparations program must respond to the most serious consequences of the violence for victims through measures that address their long-lasting socioeconomic, psychosocial, and education-related effects for victims and their children, and health and other consequences that limit victims’ ability to exercise their rights. It should also include a reconstruction effort that can guarantee the enjoyment of basic rights in the areas of the country affected by violence, destruction, and marginalization.

The government of Côte d’Ivoire should define a reparations policy through a transparent and participatory process. This will require making public the reports of CONARIV, CDVR, the Commission Nationale d’Enquête (CNE), and others that could help stakeholders in assessing the number of victims and their needs. Following CONARIV’s approach, the government should consult victims and other civil society organizations throughout the process of designing and implementing a comprehensive reparations policy. However, in defining its priorities, the government must consider the fact that some victims are more in need than others and that these victims should be prioritized. Moreover, reparations should affirm the dignity of victims, ensuring that the services provided are defined and implemented in an interactive and respectful way for victims.

Recognition of state responsibility with regard to these serious harms is another key factor for making reparations effective. Violence and destruction were not the result of natural causes, but of political decisions made by those in power. The most senior-ranking state officials should clearly apologize to victims, and victims should not be forced to provide forgiveness in return. If two other policies are not implemented contiguously, however, all of these efforts will fall short. The first are policies that work to guarantee the nonrepetition of acts of political violence and repression, which requires looking at the conduct of the armed forces, the police, the Gendarmerie, as well as armed groups that fought during the armed struggle.

The second is the enforcement of respect for human rights and humanitarian law in all state institutions. Individuals found responsible for violating these norms should be prevented from promotion and removed from the services. Mechanisms for safeguarding how the police and the military recognize and respect citizens’ rights is essential, and reforms establishing adequate oversight are needed.

Another crucial component of making the reparations policy a credible effort is investigating and prosecuting serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

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