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Title:  Cote D'Ivoire Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 
 
                            COTE D'IVOIRE 
 
 
From independence in 1960 until 1990, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny 
and his Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), then the only legal 
political party, governed the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire.  The PDCI 
maintained this political dominance following multiparty presidential 
and legislative elections in 1990.  On Houphouet's death in 1993, 
National Assembly President Henri Konan Bedie became President by 
constitutional succession, and served out the remainder of Houphouet's 
term.  Due to concerns about irregularities concerning the electoral 
code and voter registration, Cote d'Ivoire's major opposition parties 
boycotted the October 22 presidential election and tried to interfere 
with the voting process.  Only the ruling PDCI and a single small 
opposition party, the Ivorian Workers Party (PIT), fielded candidates.  
President Bedie won 96 percent of the vote.  On November 6, the major 
political parties reached an accord which allowed for full party 
participation in the November 26 legislative elections.  During the 
legislative elections, international and domestic observers noted that 
the voting took place in a calm manner, that voters were knowledgeable 
about the choice of candidates and that the presence of party 
representatives throughout the voting process served to increase public 
confidence.  Nonetheless, observers noted several areas of concern. 
 
Security forces include the national police (Surete) and the 
Gendarmerie, a branch of the armed forces with responsibility for 
general law enforcement.  The Gendarmerie is a national police charged 
with maintenance of public order and territorial security.  Designated 
as the country's senior service for enforcing public order, it takes 
precedence over all other security apparatus components.  The armed 
forces traditionally have accepted the primacy of civilian authority.  
Security forces, including the Special Anticrime Police Brigade (SAVAC), 
were responsible for a number of human rights abuses. 
 
The economy, largely market based but heavily dependent on the 
agricultural sector, performed poorly in the 1980's and early 1990's.  
High population growth coupled with economic decline resulted in a 
steady fall in living standards.  The economy showed significant 
strengthening following the January 1994 currency devaluation and the 
beginning of major structural reforms.  Gross national product (GNP) per 
capita in 1995 was about $525, and the economy expanded by about 5 
percent.  A majority of the population remains dependent on smallholder 
cash crop production.  Principal exports are cocoa, coffee, and tropical 
woods, for which world market prices rose in 1995. 
 
Despite a peaceful constitutional succession in December 1993 and 
multiparty elections in October 1995 - February 1996, the Government's 
human rights record was impaired, as serious human rights abuses 
continued.  Members of the security forces carried out extrajudicial 
killings of criminal suspects, and the security forces beat and abused 
detainees, using lethal force to disperse protestors, according to press 
reports and human rights groups.  The Government also used arbitrary 
arrest and detention.  It failed to bring to justice perpetrators of 
many of these abuses.  Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening.  
The judiciary does not ensure due process and is subject to executive 
branch influence; prolonged detention is a problem.  The Government 
restricts freedom of assembly.   
 
Police arrested and beat demonstrators participating in October 
opposition marches and sit-ins, subjecting them to control by tear gas.  
The Government places severe restrictions on press freedom and 
imprisoned several journalists for breaking the law which makes it a 
crime to criticize the Government and Chief of State.  In a highly 
publicized case, police beat opposition leader Abou Drahamane Sangare in 
the Office of the Minister of Security in June.  Discrimination against 
women remains a problem. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no known politically motivated killings by government forces.  
However, as violent civil crime increased, the security forces 
frequently resorted to lethal force.  Credible reports indicate that 
SAVAC continued its policy of shooting to kill in the pursuit of 
criminal suspects.  According to the press, best estimates suggest that 
at least 22 persons were killed by SAVAC and the regular police.  The 
Government prosecuted no SAVAC or police personnel for these killings. 
 
Police killed four protesters in separate incidents in October, as 
antigovernment protests turned violent (see Section 2.a.).  There has 
been no public official inquiry into these killings.  Ten individuals 
died as the result of the October election period violence, including 
two security force members and eight demonstrators killed during crowd 
control efforts.  Eight of the deaths occurred during the preelection 
demonstrations, and two civilians died on election day in a polling 
place melee.  In addition, against the backdrop of "active boycott" 
violence and a deteriorating security situation, ethnic strife between 
the Bete and Baoule claimed 25 lives in October, according to government 
figures.  Harsh prison conditions were responsible for the death of a 
number of prisoners (see Section 1.c.). 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Despite legal protections for the rights of persons in custody, police 
sometimes beat detainees or prisoners as punishment or to extract 
confessions, according to local human rights groups.  There were no 
public reports of government officials being tried for these abuses. 
 
On occasion, the Government punished perpetrators of crimes in the 
security forces.  In July a judge sentenced a gendarme to 10 years' 
imprisonment for raping a teenage girl in a dormitory.  However, these 
are exceptions to the rule; most offenders are not tried. 
 
A jurists' union official reported that suspects were beaten to obtain 
their confessions and were afraid to press charges against the police 
officers involved.  Press photographs regularly show criminal detainees 
with swollen or bruised faces and bodies, a likely indicator of police 
mistreatment during arrest or detention. 
 
Police also beat demonstrators.  In May five students arrested during a 
demonstration at the Abobo-Adjame Campus of the national university were 
beaten by police and detained without charge at the National Police 
School for 5 days. 
 
In June a government minister ordered police to beat opposition leader 
and editor Abou Drahamane Sangare (see Section 2.a.).  In April police 
also detained and reportedly beat unemployed youth (see Section 1.d.). 
 
Police routinely treat non-Ivorian Africans residing in Cote d'Ivoire 
(who represent a third of the total population) more roughly than 
Ivorians. 
 
Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening.  Problems include 
overcrowding, malnutrition, and a high incidence of infectious disease, 
conditions responsible for the high prisoner death rate.  For example, 
Dabre Brahima, a member of the trade union confederation Dignite died in 
July of an undisclosed illness while incarcerated in the Abidjan prison.  
Several journalists released during the year reported that certain 
white-collar prisoners are accorded special treatment.  Officials denied 
the Ivorian Human Rights League (LIDHO) and other human rights groups 
access to the prison at various times this year. 
 
According to a LIDHO report, conditions at the main prison of Abidjan 
are especially hazardous for women, with violent and nonviolent 
criminals, as well as minors, housed together.  There are no health 
facilities for women, and a number of women have reportedly given birth 
at the prison without medical attention.  There are reports of women 
prisoners being raped by prison guards. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
Under the Code of Penal Procedure, a public prosecutor may order the 
detention of a suspect for up to 48 hours without bringing charges.  A 
magistrate may order detention up to 4 months but must also provide the 
Minister of Justice with a written justification for continued detention 
on a monthly basis.  However, the law is often violated.  Police have 
held persons for more than 48 hours without bringing charges.  According 
to a representative of the jurists' union, this practice is common, and 
often magistrates are not able to verify that those not charged are 
released.  Defendants are not guaranteed the right to a judicial 
determination of the legality of their detention.  A judge may release 
pretrial detainees on bail if the judge believes that the suspect will 
not flee.  However, according to LIDHO, many prisoners are detained for 
long periods, sometimes years, awaiting trial.  While reliable 
statistics are lacking, pretrial detainees probably make up 10 percent 
of the prison population. 
 
Although the law prohibits it, police restrict access to some prisoners.  
Although the Government on December 2 released Guillaume Soro, secretary 
general of FESCI, the students' union, and six colleagues, at least one 
student remains in jail.  On October 10, police arrested "Sorbonne" 
leader Bazoumana Dembele and nearly 60 bystanders as Bazomana attempted 
to hold a meeting in downtown Abidjan.  At year's end, there were 
conflicting reports as to whether the bystanders remain incarcerated. 
 
Despite the frequency of arbitrary arrest, there is no accurate total of 
suspects held.  In April police held in investigative detention over 800 
unemployed youth in Abidjan in an attempt to identify criminals.  
Several reported that police had beaten them. 
 
The Government does not use forced exile as a means of political 
control. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The formal judicial system is headed by a Supreme Court and includes the 
Court of Appeals and lower courts. 
 
According to the Constitution, the judiciary is independent of the 
executive branch in ordinary criminal cases.  In practice, it follows 
the lead of the executive in national security or politically sensitive 
cases.  There are credible reports that those with ties to the 
opposition are treated more harshly by the judicial system than those 
with ties to the Government.  Judges serve at the pleasure of the 
executive and are therefore likely to bend to political pressure.  One 
jurist claims that he was transferred out of Abidjan because of his 
public appeals for a more independent judiciary. 
 
The law provides for the right to public trial, although key evidence is 
sometimes given in camera.  The presumption of innocence, and the right 
of defendants to be present at their trials is often not observed.  
Those convicted have the right of appeal, although courts rarely 
overturn verdicts.  Defendants accused of felonies or capital crimes 
have the right to legal counsel, and the judicial system provides for 
court-appointed attorneys for indigent defendants.  In practice, many 
defendants cannot afford private counsel, and court-appointed attorneys 
are not readily available. 
 
In rural areas, traditional institutions often administer justice at the 
village level, handling domestic disputes and minor land questions in 
accordance with customary law.   Dispute resolution is by extended 
debate, with no known instance of resort to physical punishment.  The 
formal court system is increasingly superseding these traditional 
mechanisms. 
 
Military courts do not try civilians.  Although there are no appellate 
courts within the military court system, persons convicted by a military 
tribunal may petition the Supreme Court to set aside the tribunal's 
verdict and order a retrial. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners in civilian jails.  At 
year's end, there were five military officers in detention, reportedly 
as the result of alleged coup-plotting. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Code of Penal Procedure specifies that a police official or 
investigative magistrate may conduct searches of homes without a 
judicial warrant if there is reason to believe that there is evidence on 
the premises concerning a crime.  The official must have the 
prosecutor's agreement to retain any evidence seized in the search and 
is required to have witnesses to the search, which may not take place 
between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.  In practice, police sometimes use a general 
search warrant without a name or address.  On occasion, police have 
entered homes of non-Ivorian Africans (or apprehended them at large), 
taken them to local police stations, and extorted small amounts of money 
for alleged minor offenses. 
 
Security forces have reportedly monitored some private telephone 
conversations, but the extent of the practice is unknown.  There is no 
evidence that private written correspondence is monitored by 
authorities. 
 
Citizens are free to join, or not join, any political party. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of expression, and 
independent newspapers frequently criticized government policies, the 
Government imposes significant restrictions.  The two government-owned 
daily newspapers offer little criticism of government policy, while 
government-owned radio and television offer none at all.  Moreover, 
while independent newspapers (8 daily, 19 weekly), opposition leaders, 
and student groups voice their disapproval of government or presidential 
actions frequently and sometimes loudly, the Government does not 
tolerate what it considers insults or attacks on the honor of the 
country's highest officials.  It is a crime, punishable by 3 months to 2 
years in prison, to offend the President, the Prime Minister, foreign 
chiefs of state or government, or their diplomatic representatives, or 
to defame institutions of the State.  Moreover, a 1991 press law created 
a commission to enforce laws against publishing material "undermining 
the reputation of the nation or defaming institutions of the State."  A 
British group also expressed concern that the law restricts freedom of 
expression.  Journalists exercise considerable self-censorship. 
 
In February two journalists for the proopposition newspaper La Patrie 
were arrested for publishing articles that alleged that President 
Bedie's parentage excluded him from running for president under the 
current Electoral Code.  They were convicted and sentenced to 12 months' 
imprisonment and fined for "complicity in offending the Head of State."  
The Government suspended publication of La Patrie for 3 months.  The 
journalists were released in July.  Many privately owned newspapers 
criticized the election irregularities. 
 
In February, two editors of the Muslim weekly newspaper Plume Libre were 
arrested for writing articles asserting that the Government 
discriminated against Muslims in civil service hiring, firing, and 
promotion.  In March the same two were sentenced to 10 months' 
imprisonment for "breach of the peace" and "incitement to violence" for 
another article they had written.  They were released in August. 
 
Court treatment was more lenient in April for two editors of the 
government daily Fraternite Matin.  The two received 2-month suspended 
sentences and were fined for publishing articles that falsely accused 
two opposition leaders of embezzling money from their political party's 
funds. 
 
In June Minister of Security Ouassenan Kone ordered the beating of Abou 
Drahamane Sangare, an opposition leader and the director of a press 
group Nouvel Horizon.  Following the publication of a satirical article 
in the Nouvel Horizon weekly Bol Kotch, Minister Ouassenan Kone summoned 
Sangare to his office and ordered him beaten by police officers on the 
spot.  President Bedie neither dismissed nor prosecuted Kone for his 
actions, despite opposition calls to do so.  In September the Government 
detained two foreign journalists reporting on an opposition 
demonstration in Abidjan. (see Section 4.). 
 
The Government owns both television channels and two major radio 
stations; only the primary government radio and television stations are 
broadcast nationwide.  There are also four independent radio stations 
and a private television subscription service, Canal Horizon.  While the 
independent stations have complete control over their editorial content, 
the Government continues to exercise considerable influence over 
official media program content, news coverage, and other matters, using 
these media to promote government policies.  Much of the news 
programming was devoted to the activities of the President, the 
Government, the PDCI, and pro-Bedie groups. 
 
The National Council of Audiovisual Communication, established in 1991 
and formally organized in 1995, is responsible for regulating media 
access during the 2-week formal political campaign period and for 
resolving complaints about unfair media access.  However, members of the 
ruling PDCI make up the majority of the membership of the council. 
 
Many prominent scholars are active in opposition politics and are not 
known to have suffered professionally, although some teachers and 
professors suggest that they have been transferred because of their 
political activities.  According to press reports and student union 
statements, students continue to be used as informants at the University 
of Abidjan. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly.  In practice, 
however, that freedom is restricted when the Government perceives a 
danger to public order, as it did from October onward when it used 
lethal force to control antigovernment demonstrations, which it had 
banned by decree. 
 
Groups that wish to hold demonstrations or rallies are required to 
submit a notice of their intent to do so to the Ministry of Security or 
Interior 48 hours before the proposed event.  The Government sometimes 
denied the opposition permission to meet in public outdoor venues.  
Following opposition demonstrations in September, the Government 
announced that "all marches and sit-ins would be banned for a 3-month 
period in all streets and public places."  Nevertheless, Government 
officials later insisted that the decree did not represent "an absolute 
ban" on public gatherings, and the Prime Minister declared that only 
those demonstrations which disrupt public order or block public 
thoroughfares would be prohibited.  The decree was selectively applied; 
only opposition events were affected by the ban.  Penalties for 
infraction ranged from no action to 12 months' imprisonment.  More than 
100 individuals awaited trial at year's end. 
 
Opposition groups defied this ban in October.  While authorities in some 
cities allowed the demonstrations to proceed, others enforced the 
decree.  In September 10 people were arrested in Abidjan, of whom 6 were 
sentenced to 1 year in prison and fined $200 each.  In Daloa, two 
demonstrators were arrested, with one sentenced to 6 months imprisonment 
and the other to 1 year; each was fined $220. 
 
Police used tear gas, batons, and arms to disperse several marches and 
sit-ins by opposition party demonstrators who protested the Electoral 
Code and alleged irregularities in voter registration in September and 
October.  Five people (including one gendarme) were killed and 50 people 
were injured as a result of these altercations.  There has been no 
public inquiry. 
 
Police occasionally prohibit gatherings to prevent the expression of 
controversial views.  An "anti-vandalism" law passed by the National 
Assembly in 1992 holds organizers of a march or demonstration 
responsible if any of the participants engage in violence.  LIDHO and 
all major opposition parties condemned the law as unduly vague and as 
one which imposed collective punishment for the crimes of a few. 
 
Opposition parties assert that the Constitution permits private 
associations to form.  The Government rejects this interpretation and 
requires all organizations to register before commencing activities.  
There were no reports in the past 4 years of denial of registration.  
The law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or 
religious lines.  In 1991 the Government banned the student union FESCI 
for failure to register properly.  The ban was never rescinded, although 
FESCI was allowed to operate openly until May 1994.  At that time, the 
Government again insisted that the organization was banned, arresting 
several members of its executive bureau.  FESCI remained banned 
throughout the year but was active in demonstrations, ceremonies, and 
political party conventions. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and there are no 
known impediments to religious expression.  There is no dominant 
religion, and no faith is officially favored.  The  
 
Government permits the open practice of religion, and there are no 
restrictions on religious ceremonies or teaching.  Nevertheless, some 
Muslims feel that their religious or ethnic affiliation makes them 
targets of discrimination by the Government with regard to employment 
and national identity documentation. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Ivorian law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them 
in practice.  While the Government does not generally restrict internal 
travel, uniformed police regularly extort small amounts of money or 
goods for contrived or minor infractions by motorists or passengers on 
public conveyances. 
 
Citizens normally may travel abroad and emigrate freely, and have the 
right of voluntary repatriation.  There are no known cases of revocation 
of citizenship.  However, the Government sometimes restricts foreign 
travel for political reasons. 
 
Cote d'Ivoire's refugee and asylum practices are liberal.  The 
Government respects the right to first asylum and does not deny 
recognition to refugees, either by law or custom.  Currently, there are 
an estimated 300,000 refugees in the country who have fled the Liberian 
civil war.  There were no reported cases of involuntary repatriation. 
 
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
in monitoring, organizing, and assisting in food distribution and health 
care. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Presidential and legislative elections were held in October and 
November.  The major opposition parties boycotted the October 22 
presidential election due to concerns about the Electoral Code's 
candidacy requirements and about voter registration irregularities.  In 
declared defiance of the national laws regarding law and order, the 
opposition called for active boycott of the polls during the 
presidential election.  This action included blocking polling places 
from access by voters and preventing delivery of election materials to 
the polls.  Only the ruling PDCI and a single small opposition party, 
the PIT, fielded presidential candidates.  President Bedie won 96 
percent of the votes cast. 
 
On November 6, the major political parties reached an accord which 
ensured full party participation in the November legislative elections.  
These elections were, however, suspended in 3 of the 175 districts due 
to government concern over Bete-Baoule ethnic violence and voters 
displaced as a result of the active boycott.  Election results from 
another three districts were declared invalid by the Constitutional 
Council.  The Government has not yet announced when elections in these 
six districts will be held. 
 
Two U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), the National Democratic 
Institute (NDI) and the African-American Institute (AAI), observed the 
legislative campaign and elections together with international and 
national observers.  Overall, these observers said that the elections 
took place in a calm manner, that voters were knowledgeable about the 
choice of candidates, and that the presence of representatives of 
parties throughout the voting process served to increase public 
confidence.  In their preliminary report, NDI and AAI also cited three 
problems:  voters and party representatives complained about electoral 
list accuracy; there were problems with the distribution of voter cards; 
and inconsistencies and delays in the implementation of the court-
ordered system for newly registered voters reduced the opportunity to 
vote by some eligible voters.  The opposition parties also cited these 
problems. 
 
Although the Constitution provides citizens with the right to change 
their government peacefully through democratic means, the opposition 
complained that the Government had used the December 1994 Electoral Code 
to place formidable obstacles in the path of political rivals.  The 
Rassemblement des Republicains held that Alassane Ouattara, a leading 
opposition rival to Bedie, had been unfairly excluded from entering the 
presidential race due to the Code's parentage, residency, and 
citizenship requirements.  The opposition also complained of faulty 
voter registration procedures and of unfair restrictions on 
demonstrations after the Government issued a 3-month ban on marches and 
sit-ins in September in an attempt to guarantee public order (see 
Section 2.b.). 
 
Nonetheless, the opposition complained of partisan elections preparation 
and continued PDCI control of the media throughout the year.  The 
Government created a number of new institutions charged with elections 
administration and oversight of media access.  These include a 
constitutional council, local and national electoral commissions, and a 
national audiovisual council. 
 
Under a multiparty system adopted in 1990, elections are held every 5 
years by secret ballot.  All citizens over 21 years of age can vote, and 
political parties are legally free to organize. 
 
While there are no legal impediments to women assuming political 
leadership roles, only 14 of the 169 Deputies elected to the National 
Assembly in November are women.  Women hold 3 of the 17 leadership 
positions in the Assembly.  There are 3 women in the 30-member 
Presidential Cabinet named in January 1996, and two members of the 
Supreme Court are women.  There are no impediments to the exercise of 
political rights by any one of the over 60 ethnic groups. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
LIDHO, formed in 1987 and recognized by the Government in July 1990, has 
actively investigated alleged violations of human rights and issued 
press releases and reports, some critical of the Government.  Other 
groups such as the International Movement of Democratic Women (MIFED) 
have held seminars and published press releases critical of government 
abuses of human rights. 
 
The Government has cooperated with international inquiries into its 
human rights practices.  A representative of Article 19, a London-based 
press freedom group, visited in June and issued a report in September 
entitled, "Silencing the Media:  Censorship and the Elections in Cote 
d'Ivoire."  Article 19 has expressed concern that many provisions of 
Ivorian law restrict the right to freedom of expression. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, or 
religion is prohibited by law, but in practice women occupy a clearly 
subordinate role in society.  In other respects, the Government enforces 
these provisions. 
 
   Women 
 
Representatives of women's organizations state that wife beating--while 
not widespread--does occur and often leads to divorce.  Doctors state 
that they rarely see the victims of such violence.  A severe social 
stigma is attached to such violence, and neighbors often intervene in a 
domestic quarrel to protect a woman who is the object of physical abuse.  
The courts and police view such domestic violence as a family problem, 
unless serious bodily harm is inflicted or the victim lodges a 
complaint, in which case they may initiate criminal proceedings.  The 
Ivorian Association for the Defense of Women (AIDF) and MIFED have 
protested the indifference of authorities to female victims of violence 
and called attention to domestic violence and female circumcision.  The 
groups also reported that women who are the subject of rape or domestic 
violence are often ignored when they attempt to bring the violence to 
the attention of the police.  The Government does not collect statistics 
on the rape or other physical abuse of women.  The Government has no 
clearcut policy regarding spouse abuse beyond the strictures against 
violence in the Civil Code. 
 
In rural areas, ethnic custom dictates that women perform most menial 
tasks, although farm work by men is also common.  Government policy 
encourages full participation by women in social and economic life, but 
there is considerable informal resistance among employers in hiring 
women, whom they consider less dependable by virtue of potential 
pregnancy.  Women are underrepresented in some professions and in the 
managerial sector as a whole.  Women in the formal sector, however, are 
paid on an equal scale with men. 
 
   Children 
 
The Ministries of Social Affairs and of Health and Social Protection 
seek to safeguard the welfare of children, and the Government has also 
encouraged the formation of NGO's such as the Abidjan Legal Center for 
the Defense of Children. 
 
Primary education is compulsory but this is not effectively enforced.  
Many children leave school after only a few years.  There is a parental 
preference for educating boys rather than girls, which is noticeable 
throughout the country but more pronounced in rural areas.  According to 
a 1991 U.N. report, females in Cote d'Ivoire receive only one-third of 
the schooling of males.  Sexual harassment of female students by male 
teachers is commonplace. 
 
Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by 
international health experts as damaging to both physical and 
psychological health, is illegal, but is practiced nevertheless, 
particularly among the rural population in the north and west.  The 
procedure is usually performed on young girls or at puberty as part of a 
rite of passage; it is generally done outside modern medical facilities.  
The Government does not make strong efforts to prevent the practice, and 
traditional authorities continue to uphold it.  According to an 
independent expert, as many as 35 percent of women have undergone FGM.  
The practice is becoming less common as the population becomes urbanized 
and better educated. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There are no laws mandating accessibility for the disabled.  Laws do 
exist prohibiting the abandonment of the mentally or physically 
disabled, as well as enjoining acts of violence directed at them.  
Traditional practices, beliefs, and superstitions vary, but infanticide 
in cases of serious birth disabilities is less commonplace.  Disabled 
adults are not the specific targets of abuse, but it is difficult for 
them to compete with able-bodied workers in the tight job market.  The 
Government supports special schools, associations, and artisans' 
cooperatives for the disabled. 
 
Section 6  Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The law provides workers the right to form unions.  For almost 30 years, 
the government-sponsored labor confederation, the General Union of 
Workers of Cote d'Ivoire (UGTCI), dominated most union activity.  The 
UGTCI's hold on the labor movement loosened in 1991 when several 
formerly UGTCI-affiliated unions broke away and became independent.  In 
1992 11 formerly independent unions joined together to form the 
Federation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Cote d'Ivoire.  Unions are free 
to join these and other groups and international bodies.  Registration 
of a new union requires 3 months under the law. 
 
The right to strike is provided by the Constitution and by statute.  The 
Labor Code requires a protracted series of negotiations and a 6-day 
notification period before a strike may take place, effectively making 
legal strikes difficult to organize.  The UGTCI seldom calls strikes.  
Non-UGTCI unions frequently called strikes in the past.  In March, 
Abidjan bank and insurance employees went on strike to protest the 
mandatory radio and television tax, to demand improved social security 
and unemployment benefits, and to demand salary increases.  The 
Government did not meet these demands; the workers returned to their 
jobs after a month. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The Labor Code grants all citizens the right to join unions and to 
bargain collectively.  Collective bargaining agreements are in effect in 
many major business enterprises and sectors of the civil service.  In 
most cases in which wages are not established in direct negotiations 
between unions and employers, salaries are set by job categories by the 
Ministry of Employment and Civil Service.  Labor inspectors have the 
responsibility to enforce a law which prohibits antiunion 
discrimination. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
There were no reports of forced labor, which is prohibited by law.  
However, the International Labor Organization's Committee of Experts in 
its 1993 annual report questioned a decree that places certain 
categories of prisoners at the disposal of private enterprises for work 
assignments without their apparent consent.  There has been no change in 
this decree. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
In most instances, the legal minimum working age is 16 years, and the 
Ministry of Employment and Civil Service enforces this provision 
effectively in the civil service and in large multinational companies.  
Labor law limits the hours of young workers, defined as those under the 
age of 18.  However, children often work on family farms, and some 
children routinely act as vendors in the informal sector in cities.  
There are reliable reports of some use of child labor in informal sector 
mining and also of children working in "sweatshop" conditions in small 
workshops.  Many children leave the formal school system at an early 
age; primary education is mandatory but far from universally enforced, 
particularly in rural areas. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The Government administratively determines monthly minimum wage rates, 
which were last adjusted following devaluation of the franc in January 
1994.  A slightly higher minimum wage rate applies for construction 
workers.  The Government enforces the minimum wage rates only for 
salaried workers employed by the Government or registered with the 
social security office.  Minimum wages vary according to occupation, 
with the lowest set at approximately $71.49 (cfa 36,607) per month, 
which is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a 
worker and family.  The majority of the labor force works in agriculture 
or in the informal sector where the minimum wage does not apply. 
 
Through the Ministry of Employment and the Civil Service, the Government 
enforces a comprehensive Labor Code governing the terms and conditions 
of service for wage earners and salaried workers and providing for 
occupational safety and health standards.  Those employed in the formal 
sector are reasonably protected against unjust compensation, excessive 
hours, and arbitrary discharge from employment.  The standard legal 
workweek is 40 hours.  The law requires overtime payment on a graduated 
scale for additional hours.  The Labor Code provides for at least one 
24-hour rest period per week. 
 
Government labor inspectors can order employers to improve substandard 
conditions, and a labor court can levy fines if the employer fails to 
comply.  In the large informal sector of the economy, however, involving 
both urban and rural workers, the Government's occupational health and 
safety regulations are enforced erratically at best.  Workers in the 
formal sector have the right, under the Labor Code, to remove themselves 
from  
 
dangerous work without jeopardy to continued employment by utilizing the 
Ministry of Labor inspection system to document dangerous working 
conditions.  However, workers in the informal sector cannot ordinarily 
remove themselves from such labor without losing their employment. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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