Still in jail a year later: Cote d'Ivoire

The TUC has joined trade unionists globally in protesting to the Government of Cote d'Ivoire about the continued imprisonment of Basile Mahan Gahé, General Secretary of the Ivorian trade union confederation (DIGNITY), which like the TUC is affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Gahé was originally arrested over a year ago, in April 2011. His house and his union's offices were ransacked, and the leader of one of the other ITUC affiliates fled the country.

Amnesty International received credible reports indicating that he was tortured, particularly during the first few days after his arrest. One night he was taken to the cemetery in Yopougon, where he was tied up. Security forces then began firing all around him, making him believe they were going to kill him. On another occasion, he was pounded on his back with the flat side of the blade of a machete so many times and was in such extreme pain that he was unable to sit. According to a Red Cross officer who was able to visit him, Basile Mahan Gahé had not been allowed to contact a lawyer, had not been given a decent place to sleep and had not received adequate food and water.

Despite being arrested on charges of possessing heavy weapons (a common charge deployed against opponents of the government), the authorities admitted to an ITUC mission in July that no such weapons had been found. Nevertheless, they refused to release him and transferred him from the capital, Abidjan, to Boundiali civil prison in northern Côte d’Ivoire. AI called on people to write seeking his release, saying "he is a possible prisoner of conscience, solely detained for his political views and because of his alleged links to former President Laurent Gbagbo’s government."

Now, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Ivoirean Ambassador in London: "the continued imprisonment of Mr Gahé constitutes a clear breach of the assurances on peace and reconciliation given by your president and will, no doubt, tarnish the image of your country and aggravate the current difficulties, making national dialogue and reconciliation even more difficult."

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