Ivory Coast soldiers killing rivals, attacked camp: Amnesty

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 26, 2013 4:40 PM
Ivory Coast soldiers killing rivals, attacked camp: Amnesty

By Joe Bavier

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivorian soldiers and allied militias are killing and torturing supporters of ousted president Laurent Gbagbo and took part in a deadly attack on a camp housing displaced civilians, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The violence and the government's failure to prosecute those responsible were wrecking efforts to heal wounds in the world's biggest cocoa producer nearly two years after the end of a civil war, said the campaign group.

"(Ivory Coast's) army, along with an armed militia of traditional hunters - the Dozos - are carrying out extra-judicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings, politically motivated arrests and torture," said Amnesty in a statement.

"Not a single member of the national army or any other supporter of President Alassane Ouattara has been held to account for their actions," said Amnesty International's West Africa researcher Gaëtan Mootoo.

The Nahibly camp was protected by United Nations peacekeepers and police and housed around 5,000 people - mostly from the Guere ethnic group considered to be among Gbagbo's staunchest supporters - when it was attacked on July 20.

Ivorian authorities said the raid was a reprisal attack for the murders of four people in the nearby town of Duekoue.

"We're not at all convinced that this narrative of it being a totally spontaneous, uncontrollable event fully explains what happened at Nahibly," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, who investigated the attack.

"Among (the attackers) our research makes clear were the Dozos ... and we have numerous eye-witness accounts suggesting that members of the military were also involved," he said.

The Dozos fought alongside French and U.N.-supported rebels who backed Ouattara during the civil war, which was triggered by Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat in an election in late 2010.

A government spokesperson declined to respond to Amnesty's findings, saying an inquiry by a state prosecutor into the attack was under way.

Amnesty found that Nahibly's residents had for weeks before the attack been stigmatized by local political and military authorities, who blamed individuals living inside the camp for a spate of robberies and rapes.

At least one local politician had publicly called for the camp to be closed, Neve said, and camp residents were the daily targets of taunts and insults mainly from members of the rival Dioula ethnic group.

"It was clear that there was a growing strong sentiment that people wanted to see Nahibly shut down, and shut down quickly," he said.

Around 8 AM (3 a.m. ET) on the morning of the attack, about a dozen armed Dozo hunters arrived in front of the entrance to Nahibly.

When U.N. peacekeepers barred them from entering the camp, they took up positions around its perimeter. Soon after, a mob of around 1,000 people arrived - many armed with guns, machetes, clubs and axes - and forced their way inside.

"The Dozos, armed with machetes, began attacking and tearing our tents," said one survivor of the attack interviewed by Amnesty. "They soaked rags in gasoline, then lit them and threw them on our tents. Uniformed soldiers shot at people."

Amnesty has called for an international commission of inquiry to investigate the attack on the Nahibly camp and cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions that followed the raid.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Heavens)