Human Rights Group Reveals Former President’s Wife, Son and Key Members of Administration Are Being Detained
(New York) – Amnesty International said today more than 200 people, including members of former President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front, are being illegally detained and tortured months after he was arrested and turned over to the International Criminal Court.
Researchers spent one month in Ivory Coast interviewing dozens of people who described torture. In addition, Amnesty International met four detainees at the Génie militaire, a military barracks in Abidjan, who have been held incommunicado for more than a month.
During the mission, Amnesty International met high ranking officials close to Gbagbo detained in four towns in the center and the north of the country–including his wife Simone, who is held in the town of Odienné, his son Michel, held in Bouna, plus key figures from the former administration held in Boundiali and Korhogo.
All are facing a number of charges including crimes against state security and murder.
“Some of them told us that despite the fact that they have been held since April 2011, they only saw an investigating judge twice for less than a few hours,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, West Africa researcher at Amnesty International.
Mootoo said: “We were able to meet dozens of detainees who told us how they have been tortured by electricity or had molten plastic poured on their bodies. Two of them have been sexually abused. Some have been held for many months denied contact with their families and access to lawyers.”
Gbagbo was president from 2000 until 2010, when he was forced from power after a disputed election escalated into a violent standoff. After a four month battle that resulted in more than 3,000 deaths, Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 and turned over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges relating to post-election violence.
In many cases, families have been provided no information about their loved ones’ fates, despite tireless requests and efforts to trace relatives in different places of detention. They have learned of their whereabouts through Amnesty International.
Among those held in illegal places of detention in Abidjan, some have been charged with endangering the security of the state, while others were released without charge or trial. In some cases, ransoms were paid to military officers to secure their release.
This happened in the case of a member of Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front, who was arrested in Abidjan on August 27 accused of being a militiaman. He was released two days later against a ransom, and told Amnesty International: “My parents first paid 50,000 CFA (a little under US $100) and then after my release, my jailers went at my house and demanded a higher sum. I told them that I couldn’t pay such an amount and they agreed to receive 20,000 CFA more (about US$40).”
In another case, a police officer died as a result of torture.
Serge Hervé Kribié was arrested in San Pedro on August 21 by the national army and interrogated about recent attacks. He was stripped naked, tied to a pole, had water poured on his body, and was then subjected to electric shocks. He died a few hours later.
The delegation also went to Duekoué and neighboring villages in the west of the country, where mass graves were recently discovered.
Amnesty International spoke with a number of displaced people in a camp in Nahibly who had been attacked by Dozos (traditional hunters who are a state-sponsored militia) and by the national army members in July as a reprisal for the death of four people.
The Amnesty International investigators collected credible accounts of numerous people being arbitrarily detained, “disappeared” and extra-judicially executed in the aftermath of the attack. The attack and violations occurred despite the fact that peacekeeping soldiers of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) were stationed outside the camp and U.N. police were posted inside.
“While acknowledging that the Côte d’Ivoire government is facing a wave of attacks, we are very worried that the current arrests and repression stem from a willingness of reprisals and revenge, said Mootoo.
“More than 18 months after the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo in April 2011, it’s high time for President Alassane Dramane Ouattara to go beyond promises and put the respect of human rights at the top of his government’s agenda.”
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.