• Press Release

Amnesty International Says High Profile Politicians Under Former President Held Without Charge in Ivory Coast

June 22, 2011

Amnesty Delegation Was Told Some Detainees Were Beaten by Forces Loyal to the Current President Ouattara
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]

(New York) — An Amnesty International delegation has discovered that 50 people,  including the former prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, are being detained without charge by Côte d'Ivoire authorities at a hotel in Abidjan. At least 21 supporters of the former President Laurent Gbagbo, who was arrested two months ago, are among those being held at the Pergola Hotel, the organization said today.

A recent Amnesty International delegation visited detainees at the Pergola Hotel, but were denied access to others being held in the northern towns of Korhogo, Bouna and Odienné, including Gbagbo and his wife Simone Gbagbo

A number of those detained at the hotel were beaten by forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara, at the time of their arrest, at least one severely enough to lose consciousness. French and United Nations soldiers were present during the detainees' arrest and transfer to the hotel, but did not intervene to prevent the ill-treatment.
"Detaining people without charge is in direct breach of international human rights standards," said Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa. "This is hardly a promising start to Alassane Ouattara's presidency. The authorities in Côte d'Ivoire must promptly charge all detainees with a recognizable criminal offense, or else release them immediately."
 Amnesty International is concerned that a number of individuals held at the Pergola Hotel and possibly in other locations may be prisoners of conscience, held solely because of their political opinions, actual or perceived.

The organization is particularly worried about the plight of 23 members of the police and military held in the northern town of Korhogo in conditions that may be life-threatening.

"All the detainees — particularly those held in Korhogo — must be provided with appropriate medical attention and treatment," said Aubert.

Several of those being held at the Pergola Hotel went there voluntarily, believing they would be protected from the widespread violence and reprisals in Abidjan in the days following Gbagbo's arrest. People in this group were not informed that they would be detained.

While Ivorian security forces are responsible for security within the Pergola Hotel complex itself, U.N. soldiers are also posted by the hotel to provide security along the building's external perimeter. This means they exercise some degree of supervision over who is allowed to enter the grounds.   

"The presence of U.N. soldiers at the hotel where the perceived supporters of Laurent Gbagbo are being arbitrarily held raises troubling questions," said Aubert.