Ivory Coast: Sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights ignored in conflict

Hundreds, if not thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights sexually assaulted by armed forces, says Amnesty

“He ripped off my clothes and his. He said if I told anyone about what happened he would kill me. When I got home, I didn’t say anything to my grandmother or my mother even though my stomach and my vagina hurt. After a couple weeks, my mother saw I was having a hard time walking. She undressed me and discovered my vagina was infected.”
A 10-year-old girl who was raped in May 2006 by a man linked to the New Forces

In a new report published today (Thursday 15 March 2007), Amnesty International revealed the horrifying levels of rape, sexual assault and other sexual violence levelled against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in the current conflict in the Ivory Coast. The report also showed how the scale of the attacks has been vastly underestimated.

Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Programme Director said:
“Hundreds, if not thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls have been, and indeed are, still victims of widespread and, at times, systematic rape and sexual assault committed by a range of fighting forces.”

Amnesty International’s new report, Côte d'Ivoire: Targeting Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights – the forgotten victims of conflict, highlighted how many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls are the victims of gang rape or are abducted and forced into sexual slavery by fighters.

Rape is often accompanied by beatings and torture. Often these brutal attacks were committed in public and in front of family members. Some Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have even been raped next to the corpses of family members.

As symbols of the “honour” of their communities, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights were raped to humiliate them, the men in their families and the entire community. According to Amnesty International so far none of the perpetrators has ever been brought to justice.

Véronique Aubert continued:
"Rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used so extensively and with such impunity that we can only conclude that government security forces and armed opposition groups have been using these crimes as part of a deliberate strategy to instil terror in the civilian population."

Survivors are often stigmatised and abandoned by partners or families – condemned to extreme poverty, often with dependent Children's rights.

Although no accurate statistics are available, it is widely believed that rape and sexual violence committed in the context of the conflict have worsened the HIV/AIDS crisis in Côte d'Ivoire substantially.

Delphine, a Guéré woman was gang raped for several weeks after being abducted by an armed opposition group. She said:
“I stayed with them for a month and 10 days. On the first day, 40 men had sex with me, at night when they came back from the fighting…I can’t even count how many men had sex with me.”

Victims of sexual violence are often unable to access what health care facilities do exist. Those living in areas controlled by the New Forces are cut off from virtually all national public health services. Others are reluctant to travel because of the cost incurred by such journeys and the likely threat of being attacked once again. In order to reach facilities most Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights would have to pass through a series of roadblocks.

Many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have been raped and sexually assaulted by members of the government security forces while having their papers inspected at these checkpoints which are under government control.

In its report, Amnesty International outlined several recommendations aimed at eliminating sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in Ivory Coast. The recommendations relate to both the investigation of such crimes and ensuring effective judicial remedies, including compensation and rehabilitation.

Véronique Aubert said:
"Rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by combatants or fighters during an armed conflict – whether international or non-international – are crimes against humanity and war crimes under international criminal law and should be treated as such.

"Eliminating sexual violence must be a priority for any plan aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the current crisis in Côte d'Ivoire."

Background

In September 2002, an armed uprising led to the most serious political and military crisis in Cote d'Ivoire's history since independence from France in 1960. Following a failed coup attempt, the country was divided in two, with the South controlled by the government and the North now held by a coalition of armed opposition groups called the New Forces (Forces Nouvelles).

The two sides are separated by a buffer zone controlled by more than 12,000 international troops, including UN peacekeeping forces and French troops. On 4 March 2007, an agreement was signed by President Laurent Gbagbo and the leader of the New Forces under which a new government is to be set up within five weeks. The agreement also foresees the gradual dismantling of the buffer zone and calls for progress on the main points of contention such as a census of the electorate, the disarming of rebels and their integration into the regular army.

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