After spending four weeks in Côte d’Ivoire investigating human rights violations, our research team just returned a few days ago with a gruesome report. Since the November 2010 elections, human rights violations – which have included extrajudicial executions, ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions, disappearances and sexual violence – have been rampant.
These violations and abuses are being committed both the security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the outgoing Ivoirian President, and the Forces Nouvelles (FN), loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the election.
One rape victim told our researchers:
On the 19 December, they came to my house in Abobo. They came in the middle of the night; I was sleeping with my husband and my children. They were hammering at the door. Our door is right on the street, we didn’t open. They then broke down the door, our door is made of wood. They came in, eight of them, four in plain clothes and four soldiers in military fatigues and balaclavas. Two of them took my husband outside and six of them came upon me. They told me to undress and when I didn’t, they came at me again. They all took turns raping me and threw my children to the floor, the children were crying. I was screaming. I don’t know what they were doing to my husband. After, I heard two gun shots. Then they left and I found my husband outside lying on his stomach. He was dead. The people who raped me and killed my husband told me that if I wanted to complain, I should go to Alassane Ouattara.
The political standoff between Gbagbo and Ouattara has also exacerbated long-standing inter-communal tension between ethnic groups in western parts of the country. For example, January 2011 clashes in Duékoué (an area about 500 km west of Abidjan) have resulted in roughly 40 deaths, an increasing incidence of rapes, and hundreds of homes and properties burned and looted, forcing an estimated 70,000 people to flee to other villages and makeshift internally displaced people (IDP) camps. Witnesses told Amnesty that ethnicity and alleged political affiliations were the reasons behind the attacks.
Throughout Cote d’Ivoire, impunity is the norm. As our research team reported, “The attackers are virtually never caught and the victims have no hope of obtaining justice and reparation.” This must end.
Read more about the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire and stay tuned to find out how you can help.
Sara Harden, Africa Program, contributed to this blog post