Côte d’Ivoire 2019 Human Rights Report,United States Department of State

Côte d’Ivoire 2019 Human Rights Report,United States Department of State

Author : Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Affiliated Organisation : United States Department of State

Publication Type : Report

Date of publication : 2019

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There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In May police killed a motorcycle taxi driver in a town near the country’s western border. There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. The government did not provide information regarding reports of abuse within prisons, or mechanisms to prevent or punish such abuses. Human rights organizations reported they were not aware of any torture, although some political parties alleged physical mistreatment of members of their parties prior to being taken into security force custody during the year. Prison authorities acknowledged abuse might happen and go unreported as prisoners fear reprisals.

Prison conditions were harsh and unhealthy due to insufficient food, gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, and lack of medical care.

According to the government, the daily budget allocation per inmate for food during the year was 2,400 West Africa CFA francs (four dollars) with an additional allotment of 690 CFA francs ($1.17) for personal hygiene supplies. Wealthier prisoners could buy food and other amenities, as well as hire staff to wash and iron their clothes, while poorer inmates did not receive sufficient food on a regular basis. The prison budgets generally did not increase with the number of prisoners. Families routinely supplemented rations if they lived close to the prison or detention center, bringing food from the outside during the four visiting days of the week.

According to the government, each prison facility had a staffed medical clinic available 24 hours a day. Inmates must inform prison guards if they need medical attention, and guards escort prisoners to the clinic. Inmates with severe medical issues were transferred to an outside hospital.

The daily budget allocation per inmate for food during the year was 2,400 West Africa CFA francs (four dollars)

Each prison clinic had a supply of pharmaceuticals, although in rare cases specific medications not in stock may need to be prescribed and an inmate’s family member may have to acquire the medication from an outside pharmacy. Human rights organizations reported, however, that large prisons generally had doctors, while medical care in smaller prisons was provided by nurses.

In December 2018 the government introduced a new penal procedural code, which contains, among other things, the state’s right to detain a suspect for up to 48 hours without charge, subject to renewal by an appeals court magistrate. An investigating magistrate can request pretrial detention for up to four months at a time by submitting a written justification to the national prosecutor. First-time offenders charged with minor offenses may be held for a maximum of five days after their initial hearing before the investigative magistrate. Repeat misdemeanor offenders and those accused of felonies may be held for six and 18 months, respectively.

Police often arrested individuals and held them without charge beyond the legal limit.  

There were also numerous reports of judicial corruption, as bribery or intimidation-influenced rulings. In January two unions of magistrates denounced “threats, intimidation, and interference” by the country’s executive and legislative bodies, urging the government “to enforce the principle of separation of powers enshrined in the Ivoirian constitution.”

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary sometimes did not enforce this right. Although the law provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges

Military tribunals did not provide the same rights as civilian criminal courts. Although there are no appellate courts within the military court system, persons convicted by a military tribunal may petition the Supreme Court to order a retrial.

The relative scarcity of trained magistrates and lawyers resulted in limited access to effective judicial proceedings, particularly outside of major cities. The government reported 450 magistrates for a population of 24 million. In rural areas traditional institutions often administered justice at the village level, handling domestic disputes and minor land questions in accordance with customary law.

The government denied there were political prisoners, although President Ouattara recognized in August 2018 there were prisoners indicted for “offenses connected to the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis,” a statement widely interpreted as recognition that political prisoners existed.

The government reported 450 magistrates for a population of 24 million

In April media reported police destroyed homes to forcibly evict a number of persons from a neighborhood in Abidjan under instructions from the National Sanitation and Drainage Office, which had determined the area was vulnerable to extensive flooding during the rainy season and the houses had been built illegally. Residents said they received very short notice and were not given any government resettlement assistance.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. The law requires warrants for security personnel to conduct searches, the prosecutor’s agreement to retain any evidence seized in a search, and the presence of witnesses in a search, which may take place at any time. Police sometimes used a general search warrant without a name or address.

The government did not confirm whether frozen bank accounts of those pardoned by the president in the August 2018 amnesty were reactivated during the year, although there were no further public complaints about blocked accounts. NGOs reported the government restricted access to certain websites within the country at the direction of the Presidency. There were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government did not always respect this right.

The government put in place measures to resolve the status of certain stateless groups. In May 2018 the National Assembly created a working group, the Network of Ivoirian Members of Parliament for Migration, Refugees, and Stateless People, to address the issue of statelessness and recommend solutions. According to UNHCR, however, of approximately 123,000 pending cases concerning requests for Ivoirian nationality until the end of 2018, only 16,000 received Ivoirian nationality, of whom 8,000 were estimated to have been stateless.

From 2018 through September, judges in seven cities issued nationality certificates to more than 100 children of unknown parentage. A Catholic parish in Abidjan began a program in March to help parishioners navigate the cumbersome and costly procedure for obtaining birth certificates.

Prior to senatorial elections in March 2018, security forces used tear gas on two occasions to disperse protesters associated with the opposition. Days prior to the election, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) declared it would restrict observers from remaining in the voting stations throughout the day but reversed its decision before the election. Civil society observers received accreditation badges one day before the election. Diplomatic observers and local civil society groups judged the elections to be peaceful and credible.

Peaceful assemblies organized by civil society organizations and opposition groups were regularly banned and dispersed with excessive use of force by police and gendarmes, according to a February report by Amnesty International.

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Human rights organizations reported significant official corruption, with corruption in the judiciary, police, and security forces being areas of particular concern. Many members of the security forces, including senior army officers, continued to engage in racketeering and extortion to profit from the illicit exploitation of natural resources.

Opposition groups were regularly banned and dispersed with excessive use of force by police

The law prohibits rape and provides for prison terms of five to 20 years for perpetrators. The law does not specifically penalize spousal rape. A life sentence can be imposed in cases of gang rape if the rapists are related to or hold positions of authority over the victim, or if the victim is younger than age 15. The government did not provide information on the percentage of rape cases tried as rape versus the lesser charge of indecent assault, which carries a prison term of six months to five years. Media and NGOs reported rape of schoolgirls by teachers was a problem, but few perpetrators had charges filed against them.

The government made some efforts to enforce the law, but local and international human rights groups reported rape remained widespread.

Victims seldom reported domestic violence due to cultural barriers and because police often ignored women who reported rape or domestic violence. Survivors stressed that although sexual and gender-based violence was an “everyday reality,” deeply ingrained taboos discouraged them from speaking out. Survivors were ostracized and advocates for survivors reported being threatened. Fear of challenging male authority figures silenced most victims.

Societal violence against women included traditional practices, such as dowry deaths (the killing of brides over dowry disputes), levirate (forcing a widow to marry her dead husband’s brother), and sororate (forcing a woman to marry her dead sister’s husband). The government did not provide information about the prevalence or rate of prosecution for such violence or forced activity during the year.

Local and international human rights groups reported rape remained widespread

The law confers citizenship at birth on the basis of at least one parent having been a citizen at the time of the child’s birth. The law provides parents a three-month period to register their child’s birth for only the cost of an official stamp. In some parts of the country, the three-month window conflicts with important cultural practices around the naming of children, making birth registration difficult for many families. For births registered after the first three months, families pay 5,000 CFA francs ($8.50) or more.

Primary schooling is obligatory, free, and open to all. Education was thus ostensibly free and compulsory for children ages six to 16, but families generally reported being asked to pay school fees, either to receive their children’s records or pay for school supplies.

The penalty for statutory rape or attempted rape of a child younger than age 16 is a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($610 to $1,700).

The government did not provide information about the rate of prosecution or conviction during the year. To assist child victims of violence and abuse, the government cooperated with UNICEF to strengthen the child protection network.

Primary schooling is obligatory, free, and open to all

A law passed in July equalizes the age of majority for women and men to get married at age 18. The law prohibits the marriage of men and women younger than age 18 without parental consent. The law specifically penalizes anyone who forces a minor younger than age 18 to enter a religious or customary matrimonial union. Nevertheless, reports of traditional marriages involving at least one minor spouse persisted.

In 2017 according to UNICEF, 27 percent of girls were married by age 18 and 7 percent by age 15.  

The country is a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to trafficking in persons, including sex trafficking. During the year the antitrafficking unit of the National Police investigated several cases of suspected child sex trafficking.

The law prohibits xenophobia, racism, and tribalism and makes these forms of intolerance punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. There were reports of police abuse and harassment of non-Ivoirian Africans residing in the country, based in part on the belief that foreigners were responsible for high crime rates and identity card fraud.

Same-sex sexual activity is subject to conviction as a form of public indecency that carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, which is the same penalty prescribed for heterosexual acts performed in public. In July the government made minor changes to Article 360 of the criminal law, but human rights organizations reported the changes did not prevent tacit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Members of the LGBTI community reported discrimination in access to health care, including instances in which doctors refused to give treatment and pharmacists told them to follow religion and learn to change.

Same-sex sexual activity is subject to conviction as a form of public indecency that carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment

The Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene managed a program within the National AIDS Control Program to assist vulnerable populations at high risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS (including but not limited to men who have sex with men, sex workers, persons who inject drugs, prisoners, and migrants). The Ministry of Women, Families, and Child Protection oversaw a program that directed educational, psychosocial, nutritional, and economic support to orphans and other vulnerable children, including those infected or affected by HIV.

The constitution explicitly prohibits human trafficking, including forced labor and child labor.

The law criminalizes all forms of human trafficking, including for the purposes of forced labor or slavery, and the worst forms of child labor. The law grants government officials the broad power of requisitioning labor for “national economic and social promotion,” in violation of international standards.

Children routinely worked on family farms or as vendors, shoe shiners, errand runners, domestic helpers, street restaurant vendors, and car watchers and washers. Some girls as young as nine years old reportedly worked as domestic servants, often within their extended family networks. Children in rural areas continued to work on farms under hazardous conditions, including risk of injury from machetes, physical strain from carrying heavy loads, and exposure to harmful chemicals. According to international organizations, child labor was noticed increasingly on cashew plantations and in illegal gold mines, although no official studies had been conducted.

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law specifically prohibits workplace discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status but does not address other communicable diseases. The labor code includes provisions to promote access to employment for persons with disabilities. It stipulates that employers must reserve a quota of jobs for qualified applicants.

The law does not provide for penalties for employment discrimination. The minimum wage varied by sector. The minimum wage in all sectors exceeded the government estimate for the poverty income level. The law does not stipulate equal pay for equal work. There were no reports authorities took action to rectify the large salary discrepancies between foreign non-African employees and their African colleagues employed by the same companies.

The standard legal workweek is 40 hours. The law requires overtime pay for additional hours and provides for at least one 24-hour rest period per week. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime.

Human rights organizations reported numerous complaints against employers, such as improper dismissals, uncertain contracts, failure to pay the minimum wage, and the failure to pay employee salaries. The failure to enroll workers in the country’s social security program and pay into it the amount the employer has deducted from the worker’s salary was also a problem. The government did not devote adequate resources or conduct adequate inspections to enforce applicable laws in the formal sector. Penalties for violations were insufficient to deter violations. Administrative judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

In particular, employees in the informal manufacturing sector often worked without adequate protective gear. Human rights organizations reported that working conditions in illegal gold mines remained very poor, including lack of fencing around mines, as well as large detonations and resulting deadly mudslides. According to a report released in April, there were 6,000 industrial accidents between 2015 and 2017, the most recent data available. According to government officials, the San Pedro region had an average of 400 industrial accidents per year over the past three years due to insufficient safety oversight.