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Witnesses Tell Amnesty International of Executions, Rapes and Manhunts During Ivory Coast Political Violence; New Report Accuses Both Sides of Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Related to Atrocities
Report Says Human Rights Violations Are Still Being Committed Including Villages Burned and Dozens of People Killed
(New York) — Forces allied to both former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and the new President Alassane Ouattara committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, including mass executions, torture, and rapes, during six months of deadly violence following disputed elections, Amnesty International (AI) said in a report released today.
An Amnesty International delegation that spent more than two months in Ivory Coast also concluded that the United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), failed to protect people during the March 29 massacre in Duékoué although U.N. peacekeepers were based about a half mile from the main site of the killings.
The mass violations have scarred and traumatized thousands of victims and their families and communities, the report said AI called on President Ouattara to re-establish the rule of law to regain the people’s trust in the security forces.
The Amnesty International delegation gathered more than 100 witness statements from people who survived a March 29 massacre in Duékoué (about 300 miles west of Abidjan) and neighboring villages.
Attacks against villages populated by ethnic groups viewed as supporters of Laurent Gbagbo also continued in the first weeks of May. Between May 6 and 8 several villages were burned and dozens of people killed. The FRCI [first reference] justified these acts by saying that they were looking for arms and Liberian mercenaries. FRCI or Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire was created by President Ouattara on March 8
The report, They looked at his identity card and shot him dead: Six months of post-electoral violence,’ contains shocking testimonies from victims and witnesses to massacres, rapes and manhunts.
The witnesses’ statements indicate systematic and targeted killings committed by uniformed FRCI forces, who executed hundreds of men of all ages on political and ethnic grounds.
Before killing people, the security forces asked victims to give their names or show identity cards. Some of these identity cards were found beside the bodies.
A woman who lived in Duékoué told Amnesty International:
“They (FRCI forces) came into the yards and chased the women. Then they told the men to line up and asked them to state their first and second names and show their identity card. Then they executed them. I was present while they sorted out the men. Three young men, one of whom was about 15, were shot dead in front of me.”
Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher, said: “Human rights violations are still being committed against real or perceived supporters of Laurent Gbagbo both in Abidjan and in the west of the country.
“President Ouattara’s failure to condemn these acts could be seen as a green light by many of his security forces and other armed elements fighting with them to continue. Ouattara must publically state that all violence against the civilian population must stop immediately. Ouattara has committed himself to ending impunity. To avoid further revenge attacks and violence, he must fulfil this commitment.”
Amnesty International’s report also details the inaction of the United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), based about a half mile from the main site of the killings in Duékoué. Victims told Amnesty International that they had repeatedly requested help from UNOCI but received no response.
UNOCI’s presence in the Duékoue region was also limited to one battalion of just 200 soldiers, meaning protection for tens of thousands of displaced people was not provided.
Amnesty International has made several public and private appeals for UNOCI to strengthen its presence in the area but this has not been done.
“UNOCI has a mandate to protect the civilian population yet in some cases it clearly failed to do this,” said Mootoo. “UNOCI officials told us that it is the duty of the state to protect civilians; however as the national forces first under Laurent Gbagbo and then under Alassane Ouattara themselves committed horrific crimes how can we expect them to protect the civilian population?”
Since December 2010, forces and militias loyal to Gbagbo also committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including extrajudicial executions, torture and rape.
In late February these forces began to shell a densely populated neighborhood of Abidjan that had come under the control of anti-Gbagbo armed elements, killing a number of people.
One witness to the shelling told Amnesty International:
“I can still see those two women with their legs blown off by the shell. They were taken to hospital but did not survive their injuries.”
Militias loyal to Gbagbo also burned people. The victims were mainly people with a Muslim name or wearing Muslim clothes.
An eyewitness also told Amnesty International how a person was burned alive on February 27:
“The militiamen were beating up a young man. They were armed with machetes, clubs and bricks. As they hit him, they said that he was not from the neighborhood and accused him of being a rebel. They put several tires around his neck, he was still alive when they set fire to the tires.
In Washington, Adotei Aweki, Amnesty International USA Managing Director for Governments Relations, said: “Amnesty International urges the Obama administration to support efforts to establish accountability and justice in Cote d’Ivoire, including supporting any future investigations by the International Criminal Court. We also commend the humanitarian support the United States has given thus far and urge that these efforts continue as Cote d’Ivoire begins a long painful of reconciliation and reconstruction.”
Without justice for all victims, regardless of their political affiliation or ethnic group, appeals for reconciliation run the risk of failure, which could lead to more bloodshed and vengeance in the future, Amnesty International concluded.
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.