President Ouattara has officially asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged human rights crimes that occurred during his long standoff and civil war with former president Laurent Gbagbo. In a letter to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, Ouattara acknowledged the shortcomings of the Ivorian justice system in carrying out such investigations in the aftermath. The Ivorian ministry of justice subsequently said that it will continue to investigate other crimes, while leaving the most serious allegations to the ICC.
Ouattara is showing courage inviting in the ICC. Human rights groups have accused forces loyal to both Gbagbo and Ouattara of human rights abuses. Ouattara’s frank acknowledgment of the inability of the Ivorian justice system to carry out unbiased investigations enhances his credibility to me.
Ivory Coast remains bitterly divided. Abidjan’s slow return to normality disguises the fact that tens of thousands of internally displaced persons are afraid to go home. Killings continue, if more sporadically. However, there is at least a chance that a balanced ICC investigation followed by prosecution of the perpetrators of human rights abuses from both sides could advance the cause of national reconciliation.