Cote d Ivoire H U M A N R I G H T S W A T C H. They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing. The Need for Justice for Côte d Ivoire s Post-Election Crimes - PDF

Cote d Ivoire They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing The Need for Justice for Côte d Ivoire s Post-Election Crimes H U M A N R I G H T S W A T C H They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing The Need for Justice

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Cote d Ivoire They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing The Need for Justice for Côte d Ivoire s Post-Election Crimes H U M A N R I G H T S W A T C H They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing The Need for Justice for Côte d Ivoire s Post-Election Crimes Copyright 2011 Human Rights Watch All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America ISBN: Cover design by Rafael Jimenez Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor New York, NY USA Tel: , Fax: Poststraße Berlin, Germany Tel: , Fax: Avenue des Gaulois, Brussels, Belgium Tel: + 32 (2) , Fax: + 32 (2) , Avenue Blanc 1202 Geneva, Switzerland Tel: , Fax: Pentonville Road, 2nd Floor London N1 9HF, UK Tel: , Fax: Rue de Lisbonne Paris, France Tel: +33 (1) , Fax: +33 (1) Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 500 Washington, DC USA Tel: , Fax: Web Site Address: OCTOBER 2011 ISBN: They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing The Need for Justice for Côte d Ivoire s Post-Election Crimes Maps... 1 Summary... 4 Recommendations Methodology Background From Independence to the 2000 Elections Armed conflict and political-military stalemate Peace Agreements and Peacekeepers Elections and Immediate Aftermath I. Initial Post-Election Violence: November 2010-January Pro-Gbagbo Forces Excessive Use of Force against Demonstrators Targeted Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Pro-Ouattara Activists Killings of Perceived Opponents by Pro-Gbagbo Militia Sexual Violence Pro-Ouattara Forces in the North II. Toward Active Conflict: February to mid-march Pro-Gbagbo Forces Incitement to Violence by the Gbagbo Camp Targeted Violence against West African Immigrants in Abidjan Attacks on Mosques, Muslims, and Imams Targeted Rape and Enforced Disappearances of Ouattara Supporters Violent Suppression of Demonstrations Pro-Ouattara Forces Civilian Killings in Anonkoua Village Summary Executions of Detained Gbagbo Fighters III. Full-Scale Armed Conflict: mid-march-may Pro-Gbagbo Forces Killings, Massacres in Far West Indiscriminate Shelling in Abidjan Widespread Ethnic Killings and Rapes in Abidjan... 67 Republican Forces Military Offensive Killings, Rape, and Pillage in the Far West Summary Executions of Detained Civilians, Primarily the Elderly Rape and other Sexual Violence Duékoué Massacre Involving Republican Forces Final Battle for Abidjan and Subsequent Weeks IV. Key Leaders Implicated Gbagbo Camp Ouattara Camp Not Formally Aligned V. Accountability Commissions of Inquiry Domestic Prosecutions against Gbagbo Camp No Domestic Procedures against Republican Forces Soldiers International Criminal Court Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation Commission Conclusion Annex: Letters to the International Criminal Court Acknowledgements Glossary of Acronyms Maps Côte d Ivoire Human Rights Watch 1 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH OCTOBER 2011 Côte d Ivoire s Far West Human Rights Watch THEY KILLED THEM LIKE IT WAS NOTHING 2 Abidjan John Emerson/Human Rights Watch. Map data OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA 3 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH OCTOBER 2011 Summary On November 28, 2010, Ivorians went to the polls to elect a president, hoping to end a decade-long crisis during which the country was divided politically and militarily between the north and south. In the week that followed this run-off election, despite clear international consensus that Alassane Ouattara had won, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down. The post-election crisis then evolved from a targeted campaign of violence by Gbagbo forces to an armed conflict in which armed forces from both sides committed grave crimes. Six months later, at least 3,000 civilians were killed and more than 150 women were raped in a conflict that was often waged along political, ethnic, and religious lines. Elite security force units closely linked to Gbagbo dragged neighborhood political leaders from Ouattara s coalition away from restaurants or out of their homes into waiting vehicles; family members later found the victims bodies in morgues, riddled with bullets. Women who were active in mobilizing voters or who merely wore pro-ouattara t-shirts were targeted and often gang raped by armed forces and militia groups under Gbagbo s control, after which the attackers told the women to go tell Alassane their problems. Pro-Gbagbo militiamen stopped hundreds of real and perceived supporters of Ouattara at checkpoints or attacked them in their neighborhoods and then beat them to death with bricks, executed them by gunshot at point-blank range, or burned them alive. Abuses by pro-ouattara forces ultimately known as the Republican Forces, following a March 17 Ouattara decree did not reach a comparable scale until the beginning of March, when they launched an offensive to take over the country. In Duékoué, the Republican Forces and allied militias massacred hundreds of people, pulling men they alleged to be pro-gbagbo militiamen out of their homes and executing them unarmed. Later, during the military campaign to take over and consolidate control of Abidjan, the Republican Forces again executed scores of men from ethnic groups aligned to Gbagbo at times in detention sites and tortured others. In the course of six field missions to Côte d Ivoire, including four in Abidjan and two along the Ivorian-Liberian border, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed over 500 victims and witnesses to the violence as well as members of the armed forces on both sides, Ouattara government officials, journalists, medical staff, representatives of human rights and humanitarian organizations, United Nations officials, and diplomats in Abidjan, New York, Washington, and Paris. Human Rights Watch found that armed forces on both sides THEY KILLED THEM LIKE IT WAS NOTHING 4 committed war crimes and likely crimes against humanity a finding shared by an international commission of inquiry that presented its report to the Human Rights Council on June 15. The post-election violence was the culmination of a decade of impunity for serious crimes. Despite grave crimes in violation of international law committed during Côte d Ivoire s civil war and its aftermath, no one in the country was held to account for the violence. Those who were armed or who served in security forces were effectively immune from accountability for crimes they committed. As a result of this impunity, community self-defense groups sprung up throughout the country, but particularly in the volatile west, where vigilantism replaced the rule of law. Gbagbo s presidency was also notable for the concentration of power among ethnic groups aligned to him and for the government s increasing manipulation of ethnicity and citizenship targeting ethnic northern Ivorians and West African immigrants as dangerous foreigners, despite that many of these individuals had spent all of their lives in Côte d Ivoire, often in southern cities like Abidjan far removed from their historical ethnic regions. After the election run-off, the Gbagbo government-controlled state television station, Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI), incited violence against these groups, routinely referring to them as rebels and unwanted outsiders that threatened the nation. As the post-election tension escalated, Gbagbo s mouthpieces went further, comparing Ouattara supporters to rats and culled birds and exhorting followers to set up roadblocks and denounce foreigners a call followed immediately by gruesome, targeted violence. The brutality against perceived Ouattara supporters reached appalling levels. Between December 2010 and April 2011, pro-gbagbo militiamen stopped hundreds at checkpoints based on the person s dress or name on an identity card; they often proceeded to beat the victim savagely, pile tires and wood and douse petrol on the limp body, and then burn the person alive. The practice became known as article 125: 100 francs CFA (US $0.23) for petrol, 25 francs CFA for the box of matches. Others were shot at point-blank range: a 40- year-old man from Burkina Faso described being detained at an Abidjan checkpoint on March 29 along with eight other West African immigrants; police told all the immigrants to walk in one direction, and as they did, opened fire. The witness received two gunshots but was able to survive, unlike six others killed next to him. In the far west, Gbagbo militiamen and Liberian mercenaries killed hundreds identified predominantly by ethnicity. In one particularly heinous event in Bloléquin on March 25, people who had taken refuge in the town prefecture awoke to the Gbagbo forces having 5 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH OCTOBER 2011 recaptured part of the town from the advancing Republican Forces. As they swarmed into the prefecture, the Gbagbo forces demanded that the inhabitants speak Guéré, the language of an ethnic group in the far west that largely supported Gbagbo. Those who could not speak it as a mother tongue were gunned down. Three days earlier, the same group of mercenaries and militiamen killed at least 37 people, mostly West African immigrants, in nearby Bédi-Goazon village. As the Republican Forces began their offensive in early March, they likewise engaged in collective punishment of real and perceived Gbagbo supporters. In the far west, the Republican Forces executed at point-blank range elderly Guéré villagers who were unable to flee. One woman said she watched her father, husband, and son all killed in front of her. The Republican Forces held women and raped them in towns where military bases were located. They burned entire villages to the ground. The Republican Forces committed atrocities similar to those they committed in the far west, although on a smaller scale, once they controlled Abidjan. By the conflict s end, residents reported that wells in the west were stuffed with human remains. Several Abidjan neighborhoods were marked with communal graves dug in haste, turning dirt parking lots and children s soccer fields into constant reminders of the violence that had been visited upon the country. Other bodies littered the streets for days, particularly where pro-gbagbo militias operated checkpoints. The stench became so horrible, according to residents, that they themselves took to burning corpses. In certain areas of Yopougon and Koumassi neighborhoods in particular, all that remained of many victims were a few white bone fragments and a blackened patch of concrete both still visible to a Human Rights Watch researcher several weeks after clashes ended. In almost every corner of Côte d Ivoire particularly in the west, the southern coastal region, and in Abidjan the conflict left utter destruction. Almost everyone carried a story of a brother killed, a sister raped, a home burned to the ground or pillaged of all its valuables. After intense fighting in the far west in March, the Republican Forces swept into Abidjan at breathtaking speed with most of Gbagbo s forces abandoning their positions, except for a few elite units and militia groups. Fighting threatened to drag on in Abidjan, however, as Gbagbo s huge arsenal of heavy weaponry began to be employed in likely indiscriminate attacks that killed civilians. The UN Security Council quickly authorized the peacekeeping force to use all necessary means to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence including to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population. During the week of April 4, UN peacekeepers and the French Force Licorne attacked Gbagbo s military sites throughout Abidjan, culminating in an April 11 attack on Gbagbo s THEY KILLED THEM LIKE IT WAS NOTHING 6 residence. Republican Forces were then able to storm Gbagbo s residence on April 11 and arrest him, his wife, and a number of other allies. Certain armed groups loyal to Gbagbo continued to hold out, however, killing 100 people alone in Abidjan the day after their leader s arrest. By mid-may, the fighting finally ended. The scale and organization of crimes committed by both sides, including murder, rape, and persecution of individuals and groups on political, ethnic, and national grounds, strongly suggest that they were widespread and systematic. Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, such acts, as part of an attack on a civilian population, constitute crimes against humanity. Both sides also committed war crimes, including intentional attacks against civilians and the murder of people not taking an active part in hostilities. When such grave crimes are committed, people in command authority who should have been aware of the crime and failed to prevent it or submit it for investigation and prosecution can be held accountable. The evidence presented in this report and the gravity of the crimes committed suggest that impartial justice to provide remedy to victims, enshrine the rule of law, and help promote the prospect of preventing further atrocities is essential in Côte d Ivoire. President Ouattara has notably asked for the ICC to investigate grave crimes committed after November 28, 2010, and, on October 3, 2011, the ICC pre-trial chamber granted the ICC prosecutor s June 23 request to open such an investigation. The ICC could play an important role in ensuring accountability for the horrific acts committed during this period. However, domestic trials will also be crucial in this effort, including because, historically, the ICC has taken on only a few cases in situations it investigates, trials conducted domestically can have greater resonance with affected populations when conducted according to international standards, and local accountability efforts can help maximize the rebuilding of respect for rule of law. So far, domestic criminal investigations and prosecutions for post-election crimes appear glaringly one-sided. At time of writing, military and civilian prosecutors had brought charges against at least 118 Gbagbo allies, several of whom, like General Dogbo Blé of the Republican Guard and General Guiai Bi Poin of the elite security unit CECOS, have been implicated by Human Rights Watch as being responsible for grave crimes. A military prosecutor has charged former pro-gbagbo military leaders with crimes including murder, rape, and the concealment of bodies; several specific events mentioned in the charges, like the March 3 killing of seven women who were demonstrating peacefully along with thousands of other women, have been documented by Human Rights Watch. Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, are in preventative detention; the government charged both with 7 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH OCTOBER 2011 economic crimes on August 18, 2011, following statements that the ICC would investigate their potential role in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch has consistently called for the prosecution of those in Gbagbo s forces responsible for grave crimes and stressed that any immunity or amnesty deals for grave crimes including for Gbagbo given evidence concerning his role in such crimes would be counter to international law and practice as well as respect for victims. Human Rights Watch also calls on neighboring states to cooperate in arresting and extraditing those, like Young Patriots leader Charles Blé Goudé, who are implicated in grave crimes and have sought refuge elsewhere. In stark contrast to the prosecution of those from Gbagbo s side, no member of the Republican Forces has been arrested on charges for crimes committed during the conflict. Human Rights Watch, the international commission of inquiry, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and the International Federation of Human Rights have all documented grave crimes by the Republican Forces. While President Ouattara and Justice Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou have consistently promised that all crimes will be punished, the gap between rhetoric and reality risks a reversion to impunity. A crucial window is closing in which the government can send a message that a new era of impartial justice and human rights has begun, rather than a victor s justice that could have a devastating impact on the country s reconciliation. Human Rights Watch believes that the Ouattara government s most pressing task is to give victims on both sides the justice they demand and deserve for the decade of grave crimes that have been committed. Human Rights Watch also calls on the government to ensure that those implicated in human rights abuses are not appointed to serve as members of the future Ivorian army, gendarmerie, and police. Rather than extort and abuse the population, security forces should protect civilians and faithfully investigate crimes. Early signs are very negative, as Ouattara promoted on August 3 several commanders against whom there is strong evidence of implication in serious violations of international law, including Martin Fofié, who has been on the UN Security Council sanctions list since 2006 for commanding troops implicated in extrajudicial executions and the use of child soldiers. His appointment sends the wrong signal regarding the president s commitment to justice and a rights-respecting security forces. Côte d Ivoire s international partners should demand impartial accountability and assist the government in identifying and addressing shortcomings in pursuing domestic trials for grave crimes. The ICC prosecutor should amend his request to open an investigation to THEY KILLED THEM LIKE IT WAS NOTHING 8 cover crimes committed prior to the post-election period so that an investigation best ensures an end to a decade of impunity. The UN Operations in Côte d Ivoire needs to conduct joint patrols with Ivorian forces through the upcoming legislative elections and actively participate in disarmament efforts. The peacekeeping operation should be commended for strong steps it has taken, particularly its reinforcement of the west in advance of legislative elections. Lastly, Human Rights Watch calls on the UN Security Council and secretary-general to promptly publish the report of a 2004 international commission of inquiry into human rights violations associated with the civil war. Many of those identified in the confidential 2004 Annex as most responsible for grave crimes remained in power to again incite and oversee grave crimes in the conflict and potentially appear in the confidential annex of a 2011 commission of inquiry report. Both Annexes should be published or, at a minimum, made available to the main actors responsible for justice efforts in Côte d Ivoire: President Ouattara, Justice Minister Ahoussou, and Abidjan prosecutor Simplice Koffi. Thousands of people in Côte d Ivoire lost loved ones and suffered enormous harm during the country s most recent outbreak of violence. Most were targeted because of their political or ethnic affiliation. Such discrimination and incitement to hatred must end, and so too must the impunity that has long undermined Côte d Ivoire s security. To return to the once-lauded status of stability and prosperity, the Ouattara government must ensure and welcome the impartial pursuit of justice. The conflicts in Côte d Ivoire have laid bare the grave consequences of security forces, militias, and political leaders operating above the law. If the Ouattara government does not soon heed these lessons and pursue members of the Republican Forces responsible for post-election crimes with the same fervor that it has for Gbagbo s allies, Côte d Ivoire risks another descent into violence and vigilantism. While it may be politically difficult to prosecute certain commanders implicated in crimes, it would be far more costly to the country s stability and the respect for the rule of law to once again ignore victims clear demands for justice. 9 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH OCTOBER 2011 Recommendations To President Alassane Ouattara, Justice Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou, and Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko Ensure the investigation and prosecution, in accordance with international fair trial standards, of members of both sides forces agai
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