For Immediate Release
AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302
Abductions, “Disappearances” and Illegal Detention Escalating in Ivory Coast, Amnesty International Reports, Based on Eyewitness Accounts
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
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,
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 Saguès, Amnesty 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
told Amnesty 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 told Amnesty 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
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.
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.
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