Cote d’Ivoire: A Long Way from Reconciliation (Human Rights Watch)

Côte d’Ivoire’s military was responsible for widespread human rights abuses in August and early September 2012, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The abuses included arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, extortion, inhuman treatment, and, in some cases, torture.

The 73-page report, « ‘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. The attacks were allegedly committed by militants loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo.

The resulting crackdown recalled 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. The government of President Alassane Ouattara needs to ensure the prompt investigation and prosecution of forces who committed serious human rights abuses, including torture and inhuman treatment, in response to these security threats, Human Rights Watch said.

« The security threats to Côte d’Ivoire are real, but widespread abuses by the military will fuel – rather than end – them, » said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. « The government should quickly show the determination to bring to account the soldiers responsible for torture, inhuman treatment, and criminality. »

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. Human Rights Watch also spoke with drivers of commercial and passenger transport vehicles, family members of people still in detention, leaders from Ivorian civil society, government officials, representatives of humanitarian organizations, representatives of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, and diplomats in Abidjan.

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