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Gbagbo Supporters Reported at Risk of Reprisals

UN peacekeeper in Ivory Coast
UN peacekeeper in Ivory Coast

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Joe DeCapua

A human rights group says supporters of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo are at risk of violent reprisals. Amnesty International is calling on Ivoirians to abstain from all forms of violence.

“We have been receiving in the last few days very worrying reports about reprisal attacks against perceived or real supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, both in Abidjan and in the west of the country,” said Salvatore Sagues, Amnesty’s researcher on Ivory Coast.

Alleged attacks

“Yesterday, in Abidjan, we have heard about people wearing military uniforms conducting house-to-house searches in neighborhoods where people loyal to Laurent Gbagbo are living,” he said.

The alleged incidents occurred in Yopougon and Koumassi neighborhoods, among others.

Sagues said, “In one case, a policeman was taken out of his house and killed at point blank range in front of the population.”

Amnesty said it is also receiving reports of violence against civilians in the west.

“We learned, for example, in the village called Zikisso last Sunday, people loyal to Alassane Ouattara attacked the village and the village chief was abducted yesterday and is reportedly held in another town,” he said.

Amnesty has also reported attacks against civilians in Duekoue, where 27,000 people have sought shelter at a Catholic mission.

“They are very afraid to return home because they’re afraid of reprisals,” he said.

Aid agencies are registering those at the mission, but Amnesty said that hasn’t stopped the harassment.

“We have two delegates there. Effectively, the people have been registered, but the sanitation conditions are very poor. For example, there is only one well and water is running out now. So there are long queues of people trying to fetch some water. And it is urgent that these people get another shelter where they can live in a much more comfortable way,” Sagues said.

He said the civilians must be reassured they will be protected by U.N. forces and added that UNOCI [the U.N. Operations in Ivory Coast] has a Security Council mandate to do so.

Ouattara calls for calm

President Ouattara has called on all Ivoirians to abstain from violence.

“We welcome the call of President Ouattara, but what we see on the ground is that these orders are not being obeyed. So we are again calling [on] President Ouattara to reassert that the people will be protected. That his forces who may be responsible for abuses will be tried and punished,” said Sagues.

Amnesty has also harshly criticized supporters of Mr. Gbagbo over recent months.

“Now, effectively with the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo, of course, the supporters of…Gbagbo are in a less powerful situation. But we are asking for people loyal to…Gbagbo who have committed very serious violations in the past also to be tried and prosecuted,” he said.

Amnesty said Mr. Gbagbo and his family should be treated according to due process of law.

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