UN: UN report stresses need to fight against sexual violence in Cote d'Ivoire

New York, US (PANA) - In a new joint report, the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday called for strengthening rape prevention efforts and to improve the fight against impunity for sexual violence in the West African nation.

A UN statement on the report obtained by PANA in New York, stated: "Despite the end of hostilities since 2011 and the respite brought by the gradual stabilization, instances of rape, mainly committed by individuals."

It said that the prevalence of rape was probably exacerbated by years of conflict in the country, “which fostered a culture of violence due to the general climate of insecurity and which were marked by persistent impunity due to the lack of systematic prosecution.”

The report, which is in French documented 1,129 cases of rape in the country between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2015, noting that some 66 per cent of the victims were children.

It also highlighted some progress in the judicial response to these crimes but stressed that it remains clearly insufficient. But it pointed out that although investigations were opened in 90 percent of rape cases documented in the report, less than 20 percent of them resulted in a conviction.

The report also stressed that all 203 cases that ended in a conviction were "reclassified", a common practice of judging rape as a lesser offence and for which the sentencing is less severe. Although seen as a way for victims to access justice and facilitate a prompt judgement, this practice, according to the report, "minimizes the gravity of rape."

It also noted that slow procedures and court decisions, and various shortcomings in the conduct of investigations are also major obstacles in the fight against rape, as well as the stigmatization of victims, many of whom do not lodge complaints.

"Cote d’Ivoire in recent years has recorded significant progress in terms of human rights, but the persistence of rape and impunity towards their perpetrators remain of serious concern and requires urgent action," said Zeid Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On her part, Ms. Aichatou Mindaoudou, UN Special Representative and head of UNOCI, said: "Through the efforts they already deployed, Ivorian institutions have demonstrated that they are fully aware of the scale of the problem, but they must further strengthen their efforts to fight against sexual violence, particularly by implementing the National Strategy against Gender-based Violence, with the support of UN agencies."

As part of its conclusions and recommendations, the report stressed the importance of the National Strategy and its implementation and called for urgent and targeted action to prevent abuse of children.

The report further recommended that the Ivorian authorities "ensure that all victims of sexual violence have access to justice, in particular by providing them with free legal aid and consider holding special sessions of the Criminal Courts (Cours d’assises) on rape crimes in order to effectively and promptly fight against such crimes."

Regarding capacity building, it recommended to the Ivorian authorities tha, "they organize and intensify national information and awareness-raising campaigns, including on the prevention and response to cases of rape, in particular against children and in rural areas; engage with community leaders and prefects on the fight against crimes of rape to outlaw amicable settlements and punish those who are involved in such practices."
-0-  PANA  AA  12July2016

12 july 2016 22:37:02

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