Ivory Coast

Published in 2024

Legal sources

Executive Summary

In Côte d’Ivoire, whistleblowers are not specifically protected by law. However, the law on the protection of witnesses, victims, whistleblowers, experts, and other concerned persons of June 13, 2018, seems to provide some protective measures. Although no one has yet used this law as a public whistleblower, it could potentially apply to such a case.

In October 2021, the Ministry of Good Governance Promotion, Capacity Building, and Anti-Corruption expressed support for protecting whistleblowers, and draft laws were prepared. Work on adopting a whistleblower protection law was initiated by the ministry and continues in collaboration with civil society. The bill will subsequently be presented to the National Assembly.

Freedom of expression and the media environment in Côte d’Ivoire have improved in recent years. The amended 2016 Constitution reaffirms that “freedom of thought and freedom of expression […] are guaranteed to all.” Journalists and opposition supporters are no longer subjected to the violent repression that characterized the first decade of the 21st century. However, the criminal sanctions applicable to defamation vary from one law to another, creating a potential bias in the prosecution of defamation cases.

Laws and measures related to whistleblowers

Law on the Protection of Witnesses, Victims, Whistleblowers, Experts, and Other Concerned Persons (2018)

Côte d’Ivoire does not have a specific law for the protection of whistleblowers.

In 2018, Côte d’Ivoire enacted a law on the protection of witnesses, victims, whistleblowers, experts, and other concerned persons. This law, adopted on June 13, 2018, provides for protective measures that individuals to be protected may claim. It applies to witnesses, victims, whistleblowers, experts, or any other concerned person whose “physical integrity or property (…) is in danger due to their collaboration or willingness to collaborate in a judicial or extrajudicial procedure to seek the truth.” This also includes family members of the witness or a close associate.

The text establishes a protection body, the National Bureau for the Protection of Witnesses, Victims, Whistleblowers, Experts, and Other Concerned Persons, responsible for implementing the necessary protection measures. A decree determining the composition, attributions, organization, and functioning of the National Bureau for the Protection of Witnesses, Victims, Whistleblowers, Experts, and Other Concerned Persons was adopted on December 9, 2020, in a Council of Ministers meeting.

● Measures Implemented by the Law

The measures available to this bureau to protect an individual are provided for by the 2018 law. These measures are distinguished into three categories: judicial, extrajudicial, and post-procedural measures. The complete list of measures can be found in Chapter 5 of the law.

Among the most notable judicial measures are guaranteed anonymity, facilitated access and appearance of the persons to be protected, and the possibility of electing domicile at the address of the police station, gendarmerie brigade, or even the public prosecutor’s office. Extrajudicial measures include organizing meetings in discreet and safe places, temporary relocation, changing the workplace, and possibly establishing a new temporary identity. Finally, post-procedural measures include psychosocial support, financial assistance, and if any other measure has proven ineffective, relocation and resettlement. The protective measures taken require the consent of the person to be protected.

In addition to the prescribed measures, persons to be protected are recognized several rights including the right to protection against any form of harm to their physical and mental integrity, the right to protection of their identity, and the right to be informed of all ongoing procedures (article 7).

Anyone who obtains information about the real identity of a person to be protected, through participation in an investigation, judicial or extrajudicial procedure, is obliged to maintain confidentiality.

This law seems applicable in the presence of a whistleblower, even if the notion does not appear in the body of the text. In theory, a whistleblower could approach the National Bureau of Witnesses, Victims, Whistleblowers, Experts, and Other Concerned Persons to request the application of certain protective measures according to their situation. As individuals collaborating or wishing to collaborate in a truth-seeking procedure, they fall within the scope of this law.

However, the effective application of this text and the establishment of the National Protection Bureau are not verified. No case of a whistleblower relying on this law or approaching this bureau is known to date. 

National Platform for the Prevention and Detection of Acts of Corruption and Related Offenses (SPACIA)

A decree adopted by the Council of Ministers on April 13, 2022, established the National Platform for the Prevention and Detection of Acts of Corruption and Related Offenses (SPACIA). This institution, officially launched on July 11, 2022, allows citizens to report an act of corruption by phone or by mail. The information is processed and, if necessary, transmitted to the competent authorities upon referral from SPACIA.

Protection under Labor Law

The Labor Code provides for reporting any serious and imminent danger to the life or health of the employee or others by the employee to the employer and the occupational health and safety committee. No protection measures are provided for the employee who reports a danger. They are simply protected against disciplinary sanctions and dismissal when, as a result of this danger, they have left their workplace.

Outside of this scenario, the code does not provide for reporting or protection for whistleblowers. Legitimate reasons for dismissal are ambiguous and include personal reasons such as “professional incompetence” or “misconduct” for indefinite-term contracts: thus, it is difficult to determine if whistleblowing can be considered a legitimate reason for dismissal. While all forms of “psychological harassment” are prohibited, harassment as retaliation for reporting or disclosing information is not specifically addressed.

Ordinance of September 20, 2013, on the prevention and fight against corruption and related offenses

An obligation to report cases of corruption is provided for by the ordinance of September 20, 2013, on the prevention and fight against corruption and related offenses. According to this ordinance, individuals who become aware of facts that could constitute an act of corruption risk up to five years imprisonment and a fine of five million CFA francs. The same ordinance states that whistleblowers, witnesses, experts, victims, informants, and their relatives benefit from special protection from the state against possible acts of retaliation or intimidation. The details of this protection are not provided in this text and are to be specified in a decree. It is not indicated if the law of June 13, 2018, which provides for the protection of witnesses, victims, whistleblowers, experts, and other concerned persons, is the text to which the ordinance wishes to refer.

Finally, the supreme text, the Ivorian Constitution, provides for the freedom to express and disseminate one’s ideas. These freedoms “are exercised subject to respect for the law, the rights of others, national security and public order”. The Constitution was approved by referendum in October 2016 and consolidated in 2020.

Process of drafting a specific law for the protection of whistleblowers

In Côte d’Ivoire, a process of drafting a law for the protection of whistleblowers is underway and is initiated by the Ministry of Good Governance Promotion and the Fight against Corruption. PPLAAF has been able to provide its expertise and technical assistance in the drafting of this law. Since 2022, awareness-raising activities on the concept of whistleblowing initiated by the Ministry have also taken place and are intended for law enforcement officials and journalists.

Knowledge, support and action centers

In Côte d’Ivoire, the NGO “Initiative for Social Justice, Transparency, and Good Governance” (Social Justice), set up in November 2009, aims to fight corruption, work to eradicate poverty in rural areas, promote transparency and the popularisation of the national budget, and encourage good governance and transparency in natural resources and raw materials. To achieve this, the NGO engages in significant advocacy work.

Contact: Julien Tingain, President 

Landline: +225 27 23 52 72 13 

Mobile: +225 00 00 00 00 

Email: socialjustice.ci@gmail.com 

Address: Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan – Yopougon, Ananeraie Oasis – Ilot 01 Lot 3109

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