Thursday, December 23, 2010

Abductions, “Disappearances” and Illegal Detention Escalating in Ivory Coast, Amnesty International Reports, Based on Eyewitness Accounts

Posted on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 at 9:57 PM
Reports of Opposition Supporters Kidnapped from their Homes, “Disappeared” or Killed; Bodies Found in Morgues or in Streets

New York: Eyewitnesses have told Amnesty International that abductions, “disappearances” and physical violence by security forces are rising as the Ivory Coast’s post-election crisis deepens. 

Amnesty International has received a growing number of reports of people being arrested or abducted at home or on the streets, often by unidentified armed attackers accompanied by elements of the Defense and Security Forces and militia groups.   
Gendarmes and police officials are accused of attacking a mosque in Grand-Bassam, using live ammunition on crowds and of beating and groping female protestors. 

Amnesty International  was told of numerous cases of people arrested by security forces or militiamen loyal to Laurent Gbagbo. The bodies of some have been found either in morgues or on the streets. The whereabouts of many others remain unknown. 
“It is clear that more and more people are being illegally detained by security forces or armed militiamen and we fear that many of them may have been killed or have disappeared,” said Salvatore SaguèsAmnesty International’s West Africa researcher. 

Amnesty International has received reports of constant harassment from people in Abidjan identified as real or alleged supporters of the RHDP [Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace], the coalition party that supported Alassane Ouattara in the presidential election.  “We don’t sleep at nights. We are always watching and when we see armed people in uniform or in plainclothes, we make noise with saucepans in order to alert our neighbors and to deter them,” many residents living in the neighborhoods of Abobo, Adjame, Treichville and Yopougon told Amnesty International. 

On the evening of Thursday, December 16, a few hours after a march organized by supporters of Alassane Ouattara was violently suppressed by security forces, eyewitnesses saw Drissa Yahou Ali and Konan Rochlin kidnapped from their homes in the area called Avocatiers, in Abobo, a neighborhood of Abidjan. An eyewitness told Amnesty International : “Around 7 pm, a black Mercedes stopped in front of our compound. People wearing black T-shirts and military pants entered into the courtyard and asked for Drissa. They took him and Rochlin and went away.” Their bodies were found two days later in the Yopougon morgue. 

On Saturday, December 18, Brahima Ouattara and Abdoulaye Coulibaly, members of an organization called Alliance pour le changement (APC) were arrested nearby a chemist shop in Angré, in the area of Cocody, a neighborhood of Abidjan. An eyewitness told Amnesty International : “A car of the Republican Guard stopped by. They asked all the people around to lie on the ground and they picked up the two members of the APC. No one has seen them since then.” 

The violence and ill-treatment has not been confined to Abidjan. 

On Friday afternoon, December 17, in Grand-Bassam, about 25 miles east of Abidjan, approximately 100 gendarmes and police officials surrounded a mosque and threw tear gas grenades. An eyewitness toldAmnesty International  “It was around 1 pm. We were listening to the preaching of the imam when we saw gendarmes and policemen around the mosque. Some of our young people went to protest and they threw tear gas grenades at us so we had to flee.” 

The following morning, Saturday, gendarmes arrested people in a private house. An eyewitness toldAmnesty International : “They took three young men and beat them. They were also looking for other people and we all fled so they fired at us with live bullets.” 

A few hours later, more than 300  women marched in front of the police station demanding the release of those being held. One of these women told Amnesty International : “They beat us. They tore our underwear. They put their hands in our vagina and touched our breasts.” 

On Sunday, December 19, Laurent Gbagbo issued a demand for the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast and the French operation mission to withdraw from the country. 

The U.N. refused, saying that Laurent Gbagbo is not recognized by the international community and does not have the right to call for the departure of its peacekeeping forces. On Monday, the U.N. Security Council extended the peacekeeping mandate for an additional six months and the French government said its 900-plus force would remain. 

In a separate statement, the Security Council warned that anyone responsible for attacks on civilians or peacekeepers could be brought before an international tribunal. 

A peacekeeping official in New York said U.N. troops were ready to open fire in self-defense and to defend their mandate, which includes the protection of civilians. 

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that more than 50 people had been killed in the past three days with more than 200 wounded. 

“In a situation where the security forces are collaborating in the commission of serious human rights violations, the international community must act to ensure that violations are halted immediately,” said Saguès. 
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Note:  Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 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. 

"People everywhere need to be continually reminded that violations of human rights, whether arbitrary arrest and detention, unjust imprisonment, torture, or political assassination, are threats to world peace."
--Mumtaz Soysal
Nobel Peace Prize lecture

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