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HRW: Pro-Ouattara Forces Killing Gbagbo Supporters in Ivory Coast

  • Anne Look

A pro-Outtara soldier belonging to the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher during a patrol in Fengolo, a looted village in Duekoue town, May 19, 2011 (file photo)

A pro-Outtara soldier belonging to the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher during a patrol in Fengolo, a looted village in Duekoue town, May 19, 2011 (file photo)

Human Rights Watch says forces loyal to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara have killed at least 149 real or perceived supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo since taking control of the commercial capital, Abidjan, in mid-April.

When the pro-Ouattara Republican Forces took Abidjan in mid-April, many hoped it would mark the end to a violent, five-month post-electoral crisis during which incumbent president Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara.

Instead, Human Rights Watch says it has documented what the group's senior West Africa researcher, Corinne Dufka, called a "pattern of very deadly reprisal killings" of individuals in Abidjan, who either supported Gbagbo or were from ethnic groups who have supported him.

"Some of these killings continued during our mission in Abidjan, which took place between the 13th and 25th [of May], which really concerns us, particularly after the consistent statements by President Ouattara that he would address these acts of indiscipline and abuses by his forces. Instead, we have seen them continuing," said Dufka.

One Abidjan resident told researchers how Republican Forces soldiers lifted his 21-year-old brother by his arms, legs, and head and slit his throat.

Another described being raped in her home by a Republican Forces commander on May 8 and then seeing his soldiers execute 18 young men from her neighborhood, after forcing them to lie on the ground in their underwear.

Dufka said the majority of individuals were killed during cordon and search operations of pro-Gbagbo neighborhoods or after having been detained in ad-hoc detention centers.

"A good number of the men who were killed were, according to witnesses, individuals that did not play an active part in politics really," said Dufka. "Many of those militiamen fled quite soon after the battle for Abidjan was over, and instead the Republican Forces seemed to have picked up a lot of these young men simply by virtue of their age and their ethnic group."

Human Rights Watch is calling on the Ouattara government to put Republican Forces commanders - both directly and indirectly implicated in killings, torture or other severe abuses - on immediate administrative leave, pending investigation and possible prosecution.

Forces loyal to both Gbagbo and Ouattara have been accused of atrocities, war crimes and human rights abuses since the crisis began.

Human Rights Watch say that pro-Gbagbo militiamen killed at least 220 people in Abidjan in the days immediately preceding and following Gbagbo’s arrest on April 11.

Ouattara has vowed repeatedly to investigate and bring perpetrators of violence on both sides to justice.

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