Ivorian refugees fear return after abuses – Amnesty

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Hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced by Ivory Coast’s vicious post-election conflict and many are too afraid to return home for fear of ethnic reprisals, said human rights group Amnesty International.

Amnesty also reported killings and other abuses by forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara after they ousted former president Laurent Gbagbo in April, ending a violent power struggle over a disputed election in November 2010.

Most of the abuses, and all of the killings, it documented happened in April and May, as the West African country — the world’s top cocoa producer — was still emerging from a conflict that killed at least 3,000 people and displaced more than a million, Reuters reports.

Security has dramatically improved since then, although pockets of insecurity remain and the former rebels who helped Ouattara take power are still at large, despite calls from the United Nations and donor countries to put them back in their barracks.
“Serious human rights violations … including … torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions have been committed in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) since the arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo on 11 April 2011,” the 44-page report said, adding that both sides had committed crimes.

It said the crimes, which were worst in the volatile west of the country, a tinderbox of ethnic and land tensions, had created a climate of fear preventing tens of thousands of refugees from returning home for fear of reprisals.
“It is therefore not surprising that the number of displaced people and refugees, the overwhelming number of whom belong to ethnic groups perceived as supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, remains very high,” the report said.

Some 670,000 Ivorians remained displaced at the end of June, it said, quoting U.N. refugee agency figures, and 55,000 people were still displaced in the main commercial city of Abidjan.

Much of the persistent lawlessness, including beatings and intimidation of civilians, was being perpetrated by ethnic militias from Ouattara’s Dioula tribe called “Dozos”. These are allied to his former rebel movement which is currently being integrated into the national army.

President Ouattara signed a decree on Wednesday establishing a commission of inquiry into crimes committed during the post-election crisis, giving it six months to reach conclusions.

He also wants to try Gbagbo and his top aides — currently detained in the north — for war crimes, aims which may fit ill with his goal of reconciling a deeply divided country.

The International Criminal Court has been carrying out preliminary research and may soon order an investigation into the most grave crimes committed during the post-election crisis.

Amnesty recommended it be expanded to cover all crimes committed since a rebellion cut the country in two in 2002.



Gbagbo’s supporters complain that not a single member of Ouattara’s camp has been arrested for alleged crimes, despite evidence of abuses by the former rebel troops.
“In order to end this cycle of violations and reprisals, it is essential to ensure justice for all victims, whatever their political affiliation or ethnic group,” Amnesty said.