Cote d'Ivoire: Militia Leader Accused of Crimes Against Humanity Must Be Detained Lawfully

press release

Authorities in Côte d'Ivoire must transfer former militia leader Charles Blé Goudé, who is accused of crimes against humanity, to a legally recognized place of detention where his relatives and lawyers can visit him, Amnesty International said.

Charles Blé Goudé, a supporter of former president Laurent Gbagbo, has been detained unlawfully by the Ivorian Ministry of Interior for the past year on charges relating to the 2010-11 post election violence.

"Preventing Charles Blé Goudé from seeing his lawyers will not serve justice for the victims of the crimes he is accused of," said Gaëtan Mootoo, West Africa researcher at Amnesty International.

"Instead, authorities must ensure any judicial process against him is transparent and fair so victims and their relatives can obtain the justice they are entitled to."

Since his arrest in Ghana and transfer to Côte d'Ivoire, Blé Goudé has been denied regular access to his family and counsel. His lawyers were only allowed to see him once, in August 2013. In December, the authorities prevented an Amnesty International delegation from visiting him.

In recent years, Amnesty International documented reports of torture and incommunicado detention against real or suspected supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo at the Ministry of Interior security facility where Blé Goudé has been detained.

"Blé Goudé's detention in the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance facility is a clear violation of international and local laws. No one should be held in an unofficial place of detention without access to lawyers," said Gaëtan Mootoo.

Besides his national trial, Blé Goudé is also facing an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), on charges of crimes against humanity including murder, rape, sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts.

On 13 January 2014, Côte d'Ivoire asked ICC judges to grant a three-month postponement of its obligation to execute the arrest warrant and surrender Blé Goudé.

ICC judges may authorize such a postponement to allow completion of the case brought against him in national courts. In the request, the Ivorian authorities pledged that Blé Goudé's case will proceed swiftly in the first half of 2014.

"If the ICC judges grant the postponement, the Ivorian authorities must promptly complete the investigation and - if sufficient evidence is found - prosecution of Blé Goudé and then surrender him to the ICC," said Gaëtan Mootoo.

Background information

Almost three years after the end of the post-electoral crisis which resulted in almost 3,000 deaths, known or suspected supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo continue to be victims of human rights violations, such as prolonged detention without trial and no regular access to lawyers and relatives.

In the past two years, Amnesty International has documented hundreds of cases of individuals who were held in detention for months without access to relatives or lawyers because of their real of alleged support to former President Gbagbo.

The Forces républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI, Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire, the national army) and the military police were responsible for numerous human rights violations after arresting and detaining individuals outside the legal framework and often on the basis of ethnicity and political affiliations.

These acts were made possible by the use of places of detention not recognized as such, where individuals suspected of acts against state security were held incommunicado, sometimes for long periods, and in inhumane and degrading conditions. Many were tortured and some have been released following payment of a ransom.

National investigations into alleged crimes have only been opened against real or alleged supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, while, to Amnesty International's knowledge, none of the perpetrators of the serious post-electoral violations committed by the security forces have been held to account.

Former President Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to the ICC in The Hague in November 2011 to face charges of crimes against humanity. A decision regarding these charges is expected in 2014.

Former First Lady Simone Gbagbo has also been charged with crimes against humanity, but the Ivorian authorities' challenge to the admissibility of the case has meant she has not yet been surrendered to the ICC.

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