News / Africa

Ivory Coast Soldiers On Trial at Military Court

Soldiers patrol the area after an attack in Dabou, around 50 km (30 miles) west of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Aug. 16, 2012.
Soldiers patrol the area after an attack in Dabou, around 50 km (30 miles) west of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Aug. 16, 2012.
Ivory Coast’s military tribunal has begun trying more than 30 soldiers for crimes including assault and murder.  Critics have been accusing the government of President Alassane Ouattara of shielding his military backers from the law.

The tribunal announced this week that a total of 33 soldiers would soon be brought to trial.

The proceedings Thursday concerned a December 2011 incident in which soldiers allegedly opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in the central town of Vavoua.  The U.N. independent expert on human rights in Ivory Coast said five people died in the shooting.

The demonstrators had been protesting the death of a young man named Fofana Adama, who had been arrested by the army.  The U.N. expert said Adama died as a result of mistreatment by government forces.

Lieutenant Charles Awou Akodia, the tribunal’s judicial clerk, laid out the details of the charges against the seven suspects in the case.

He says the men have been charged with manslaughter, murder and assault. 

“The charge sheet indicates that after Fofana Adama died of his injuries in a private clinic, the demonstrators began to assemble and the situation deteriorated quickly, becoming uncontrollable,” he said. “Calm only returned after the intervention of U.N. forces and military forces from nearby towns.”

The launch of the proceedings came two years to the day after former President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested from his Abidjan bunker, ending a power struggle between him and current President Ouattara.  Gbagbo's refusal to leave office after losing the November 2010 presidential runoff vote sparked five months of violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives.

Since the end of the crisis, more than 150 Gbagbo supporters have been charged with crimes related to the violence, according to Human Rights Watch.

In recent months, Ivory Coast's judiciary has come under fire for not pursuing cases against Ouattara’s military backers.  No pro-Ouattara forces have been charged in connection with the violence, despite widespread evidence of human rights abuses on both sides.

The current military is composed mainly of fighters who backed Ouattara.

All of the cases the military tribunal plans to try in the coming weeks concern crimes that were committed after the conflict ended.

Matt Wells, West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the new cases are a positive development, but called for more progress in pursuing what he called “politically sensitive” cases - including crimes committed during the post-election violence as well as more recent alleged abuses.

"It is a positive sign in terms of the government starting to address impunity in the military - particularly the Vavoua incident, in which soldiers appeared to have used excessive force against a demonstration," said Wells. "At the same time, the government has yet to make progress on any of the sensitive cases that touch the military.  It is crucial that this really be the first step toward justice for all of the crimes that have been committed by soldiers over the last few years. "

The military tribunal has said cases involving alleged extortion by soldiers at roadblocks, a common complaint throughout the country, will be heard beginning in June.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid