A new report from Human Rights Watch, HRW, released yesterday November 19, 2012 says Côte d'Ivoire's military has undertaken what it describes as a swift, brutal and illegal campaign of arbitrary arrest and detention of sympathisers of former President Laurent Gbagbo in response to recent violence in the country.
According to HRW, Côte d'Ivoire's military was responsible for widespread human rights abuses in August and early September 2012. The abuses included arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, extortion, inhuman treatment, and, in some cases, torture. The 73-page report entitled, "'A Long Way from Reconciliation': Abusive Military Crackdown in Response to Security Threats in Côte d'Ivoire," details the brutal crackdown that followed a series of violent attacks on military installations around the country in August 2012.
Since April 2012, at least 50 people, including many civilians, have been killed during these attacks, which the Ivorian government has blamed on pro-Gbagbo militants intent on destabilizing the country. The resulting crackdown was reminiscent of the grave crimes committed during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis, in some cases, under the same commanders previously identified as responsible for brutal abuses, Human Rights Watch found out. The government of President Alassane Ouattara was therefore urged to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute those suspected of serious abuses.
Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at HRW, acknowledged that the security threats to Côte d'Ivoire were real, but widespread abuses by the military will fuel, rather than end them, the Associated Press news agency said. Responding to the report, Ivorian officials promised to investigate the allegations. The report is based on a three-week mission to Abidjan in late August and early September during the height of the military crackdown. Human Rights Watch interviewed 39 people who had been arrested and detained after the August attacks, as well as another 14 witnesses to mass arrests, beatings, and other abuses.
HRW also spoke with drivers of commercial and passenger transport vehicles, family members of people still in detention and leaders of Ivorian civil society. Other sources were government officials, representatives of humanitarian organizations, representatives of the United Nations peacekeeping mission and diplomats in Abidjan.