A military tribunal in Ivory Coast on Tuesday convicted two top officials in former president Laurent Gbagbo’s security forces of crimes related to the West African nation’s 2011 civil war.
Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa grower, has seen rapid economic revival under President Alassane Ouattara but is still struggling with issues of reconciliation and justice.
About 3,000 people died in the conflict, which was sparked by Gbagbo’s refusal to acknowledge his defeat by Ouattara in a late 2010 presidential run-off election.
Anselme Seka Yapo, the head of former first lady Simone Gbagbo’s security detail, was found guilty of wilful murder and assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The gendarme officer, known as Seka Seka, was accused of murdering the driver of Joel N’Guessan, a senior member of Ouattara’s RDR political party, and of beating his bodyguard.
In addition to his prison sentence, Yapo was also expelled from the gendarmes and will not be permitted to leave his home district for 10 years following his release.
Jean-Noel Abehi, who headed Gbagbo’s elite mobile gendarme squadron, was convicted of disobeying an order from superiors not to fight in support of the ex-president. He was sentenced to five years in jail.
Abehi, who was accused by a panel of U.N. experts of organising a series of deadly raids from exile after the war, was arrested in Ghana in 2013 and handed over to Ivorian authorities.
Six other gendarmes on trial were acquitted of desertion.
Laurent Gbagbo is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for alleged crimes against humanity.
Simone Gbagbo is wanted by the court on similar charges, though Ivorian authorities have so far refused to extradite her.
Rights groups have accused Ouattara’s government of prosecuting Gbagbo supporters while ignoring crimes committed by the president’s own backers.
All three ICC indictments relating to Ivory Coast target Gbagbo and his allies though the ICC prosecution have said it will expand its investigations by the end of the year to pursue all sides in the conflict.
In a report released on Tuesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch senior international justice counsel, Elizabeth Evenson, said: “Additional ICC investigations are necessary, but the focus so far on pro-Gbagbo forces has deeply polarised opinion within Ivory Coast about the ICC.”