Ivory Coast: New army committing acts of revenge and repression under pretence of security

Detainees tortured with electricity and molten plastic to extract confessions

28 people held in a four-metre squared cell with no sanitation for 49 days

[Footage and report available upon request]

Ivory Coast’s new national army, which was set up by President Alassane Ouattara in the wake of the 2010 post-election violence, together with an armed militia of traditional hunters – the Dozos – are carrying out extrajudicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings, politically-motivated arrests and torture across Ivory Coast, said Amnesty International in a new report published today (26 Feb).

This new national army, established to integrate forces loyal to the former President Laurent Gbagbo in the wake of the 2010 post-election violence which led to nearly 3,000 deaths,  was supposed to ensure “the safety of person and property without distinction” and “be a powerful instrument for national cohesion”. Instead these armed forces pursuing the former President’s supporters are found to be acting with almost total impunity under the pretence of ensuring security and fighting against perpetrators of armed attacks.

Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher Gaëtan Mootoo said:

“Côte d’Ivoire needs to break the cycle of abuse and impunity. Not a single member of the national army or any other supporter of President Alassane Ouattara has been held to account for their actions, representing an absolute failure to establish the rule of law and severely undermining the reconciliation process set up in July 2011.”

In September and October last year an Amnesty research team visited a number of places of detention, including two unofficial ones. The team heard first hand testimonies about how detainees, largely held for their political or ethnic affiliations, are being held for months at a time, with no access to their families, lawyers or doctors.

In some cases, families learnt where their relatives were only after Amnesty informed them.

Detainees and former detainees explained how they were tortured with electricity or with molten plastic in order to extract confessions about their alleged participation in armed attacks. At least two of them died as a result of torture.

The research team was able to meet all of Laurent Gbagbo’s relatives and aides held in five detention centres in the centre and north of the country. Some of them have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment.

One man told Amnesty he had been detained along with 27 other people in a four-metre squared cell with no sanitation for 49 days.

“We had to go to the toilet in bags. And we only had one meal a day which we were given at two or three pm. And we were only given one litre of water for 48 hours.”

Amnesty’s report noted serious irregularities in the investigation of cases; the authorities have done very little to ensure fair hearings and have seriously undermined the right to a defence.
It also documents the attack and destruction in July 2012 of a camp of internally displaced people largely from the Guéré ethic group, generally regarded as Gbagbo supporters, which led to the death of at least 14 people - although many more bodies are believed to have been dumped in wells.

The attack took place in Nahibly (near the town of Duékoué) in western Ivory Coast, a region which has experienced some of the most serious human rights violations in the country. It was led by the Dozos - who are particularly active in the west - along with armed members of the local population and elements of the army. Amnesty is calling for an international commission of enquiry into this attack. 

The organisation is also calling on the Ivorian authorities to halt the human rights violations and abuses which continue to be committed with impunity by state agents or militias supported by the state.

Gaetan Mootoo said:

“Some of the worst human rights violations of the 2011 conflict were carried out in Duékoué and it is appalling to see that the same perpetrators are committing the same violations and abuses against the same population, two years later. Where is the justice in that?

“Justice is already long overdue for the people of Côte d’Ivoire.  If measures are not put in place immediately to control the security forces, Côte d’Ivoire risks successive political crises, where national reconciliation becomes a long lost hope.”

Notes to the Editor
 A copy of the report is available upon request.
2. Broadcast quality video images and interviews with people who were forcibly evicted from the displaced camp in Nahibly in July 2012, including stories related to bodies dumped in a well and exclusive material showing the eviction taking place, are available in English and in French.
3. To arrange an interview with a member of Amnesty’s research team to Ivory Coast, please contact Amnesty International UK media unit.

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