By Susan Breau, Professor of International Law (Flinders University, Australia)

On 30 March 2011, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter  adopted Resolution 1975 which urged the defeated President Gbagbo to immediately step aside and declared the situation in Ivory Coast to be a threat to international threat and security.

The resolution also imposed targeted sanctions (freezing of assets, travel bans) against Laurent Gbagbo and other members of his regime.  In its preamble it declared that the attacks currently taking place in Côte d’Ivoire against the civilian population could amount to crimes against humanity and that perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable under international law and noting that the International Criminal Court may decide on its jurisdiction over the situation in Côte d’Ivoire on the basis of article 12, paragraph 3 of the Rome Statute.

For the purposes of this analysis the resolution also authorised the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to use “all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians” including preventing the use of heavy weapons.  Surprisingly, the resolution specifically mentioned ‘the French forces’ supporting UNOCI which indirectly authorised the use of force by French forces  in assisting the UN operation to fulfil its mandate.

Importantly, the resolution specificially referred to the ‘primary responsibility’ of each State to protect civilians, thus referring to the responsibility to protect albeit in an oblique way. It can be asserted that together with the recent resolution 1973 on Libya which authorised “all necessary means to protect civilians”, there is a growing body of international practice responding to massive violations of human rights with mandates to use force, if necessary, to protect civilians.

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By Loye Jide Olufemi (LL.B, LLM, BL), international lawyer and legal consultant on laws of war practicing in Nigeria and working on Human rights and international armed conflict issues. 

Ivory Coast, a former French Colony that was once admired and envied by its West African neighbours for its well developed economy and political stability has been plagued by continuous turmoil in recent years.

Historical Perspective

For more than 30yrs under its charismatic first president Felix Houphouët-Boigny, Ivory Coast prospered as a nation. However, Houphouët-Boigny’s death in 1993 brought an end to the country’s economic prosperity and political stability. Henri-Konan Bédié succeeded him in 1993, and won the 1995 election boycotted by the opposition led by Houphouet-Boigny’s Vice President: Alassane Ouattara. A coup–d’état orchestrated by General Guei forced Bedié and his government out in 1999, and presidential elections took place under his military dictatorship. Ouattara (whose party represented the majority group as reflected in the parliamentary votes) was banned from the presidential elections because of his alleged foreign parentage, while Gbagbo was allowed to run against Guei. The election results were disputed, but the Supreme Court eventually declared Gbagbo the winner. Guei, however, would not relinquish power, leading to clashes and many killings. General Guei was eventually deposed in an uprising and the declared winner of the elections Laurent Gbagbo was installed as the president.[1]

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