September 30, 2011

III. Full-Scale Armed Conflict: mid-March-May 2011

The months of tension and violence in Côte d’Ivoire escalated into armed conflict by March 2011, when the Republican Forces launched a military offensive in the far west. Although the first towns were captured at the end of February, intense fighting between armed forces began in mid-March in the far west and at the end of March in Abidjan. Grave crimes continued, on both sides, through the last days of fighting in early May—almost a month after Gbagbo’s April 11 arrest.

In the far west, retreating militia and mercenary groups loyal to Gbagbo perpetrated massacres and widespread killings as they inflicted a final wave of violence against northern Ivorians and West African immigrants. In Abidjan, security forces aligned with Gbagbo indiscriminately shelled civilian areas, launching heavy weapons into market places and neighborhoods. Pro-Gbagbo militia groups launched attacks on homes and created frequent checkpoints, killing hundreds of perceived Ouattara supporters in horrifyingly brutal ways. Together these marked the final acts of what likely amounts to crimes against humanity by forces overseen by Gbagbo, Blé Goudé, and their close allies.

In return, as the Republican Forces swept through the country, they left a trail of killings, rapes, and villages burned to the ground. In the far west, Ouattara-aligned forces executed elderly persons unable to flee the combat. Women in Duékoué watched as Ouattara’s soldiers pulled their husbands, brothers, and sons out of their houses and killed them. After taking control of Abidjan, the Republican Forces executed at least 149 people and tortured or treated inhumanely scores more in detention. At a minimum, these constitute war crimes under international law. But given the widespread and, at times, organized nature of the acts, they likely also amount to crimes against humanity.

Pro-Gbagbo Forces

Killings, Massacres in Far West

As the Republican Forces advanced during their military offensive, regular armed forces previously loyal to Gbagbo retreated quickly. Other pro-Gbagbo forces, however, notably Ivorian militiamen and Liberian mercenaries [see text box below], often stayed behind. Many of these forces appeared to take a final opportunity to commit atrocities against alleged Ouattara supporters before retreating as well. Human Rights Watch documented massacres by pro-Gbagbo militiamen and mercenaries in two towns in western Côte d’Ivoire as well as killings in four more towns.

Liberian Mercenaries: Regional Warriors, Take Two

Both sides recruited Liberian mercenaries during the post-election period, utilizing networks with former combatants from Liberia’s brutal civil war that dated back to the first Ivorian armed conflict. [138] According to Human Rights Watch’s field work along the Liberian-Ivorian border, including interviews with recruited mercenaries, Gbagbo’s forces began re-recruiting and readying former Liberian allies in the weeks prior to the second round of elections. As armed conflict grew closer, both sides’ armed forces engaged in recruitment, often working with individuals implicated in grave crimes during the region’s civil wars. [139] Leaders of ex-combatant groups based in Monrovia told Human Rights Watch that in total more than 3,000 Liberians crossed into Côte d’Ivoire to fight. Several Liberian recruits said they were paid between $300 and $500 each. Others crossed with the promise of later payment as well as the express ability to loot.

On March 22, pro-Gbagbo militiamen and mercenaries killed at least 37 West African immigrants in Bédi-Goazon, a village 32 kilometers from the town of Guiglo and home to an estimated 400 West African immigrants, most of whom work on cocoa plantations on land owned by “native” Ivorians.[140] Human Rights Watch spoke with six witnesses who said that many of the attackers, who spoke English, appeared to be Liberian, while the vast majority of victims were immigrants from Mali and Burkina Faso. Witnesses said the Republican Forces passed through Bédi-Goazon at around 1 p.m. as they advanced toward Guiglo. Around 3:30 p.m., at least four cars containing scores of pro-Gbagbo militiamen, some in military and some in civilian dress, descended on the area where West African immigrants live. Witnesses described the militiamen, armed with automatic weapons, RPGs, and machetes, killing immigrants inside their homes and as they attempted to flee. As the attackers left, they pillaged and in some instances burned houses, looting any item of value, including motorcycles, money, televisions, mattresses, and clothing.

Several witnesses described a clear ethnic element to the targeting of victims. A 36-year-old witness said: “They came in accusing us of being rebels, and said, ‘If you’re Dioula [from northern Côte d’Ivoire], you can try to flee, if you’re Guéré [natives of the area and largely Gbagbo supporters], stay, we’re not concerned with you. But if you’re Malian or Mossi [an ethnic group from Burkina Faso], we’ll kill you.’ And then they started killing.”[141]

An 18-year old Malian woman described hearing the attackers yelling, “Fire them,” in English as they descended from their vehicles and started to kill. She said she and many other women and children were saved by a female Liberian who intervened to stop them from being killed.[142] A few witnesses, including a 28-year-old Malian man, survived after paying money to the attackers, but watched others killed right in front of them:

At around 3 p.m. we heard the sound of heavy trucks coming, and ran into our houses. The men fired into the air, then started breaking down the doors … saying, “Fire, fire” and, “You’re rebels, we’ll kill all of you.” We heard shots and screams…. My family and I were cowering in our home; after breaking down my door, they screamed that I should give them money, or they’d kill me. I gave them all I had—84,000 CFA and the keys to three motorcycles. I begged them not to kill me…. I was terrified, but it saved my life. The commander said, “If it wasn’t for this money, you’d be dead.” But not everyone had money.… They killed a Burkinabé man in front of me… and later in a nearby house, I saw them kill five women just a few meters away. They screamed, “Give us money!” The women pleaded saying they didn’t have any, and then they shot them—three inside the house, two just outside. They ordered four of us to carry the goods they looted to their truck…. As I walked through the village I saw at least 20 bodies and heard women and children wailing.… I saw them setting houses on fire and was told some villagers were burned inside.[143]

A 34-year-old man from Burkina Faso described seeing 25 people killed and noted what he believed to be a clear motive for the attack:

As they were killing people, they accused us of being rebels…They said other things in English that I couldn’t understand. I saw 25 people killed with my own eyes. They killed women, with children, with men. They said they’d kill us all. They forced the people out and they killed them, just like they said. Most people who live there in the village are Burkinabé, Malians, and Senoufo [an ethnic group from northern Côte d’Ivoire]. They killed people in front of the door to their house after pulling them out. One man opened his door, two guys dragged him out, and they fired their Kalashes into him. Also I saw an entire family killed. The man, two wives, the man’s little brother, and their kids—two kids nine and five years old. They killed them like it was nothing.[144]

Several days later, on March 25, pro-Gbagbo militiamen and mercenaries massacred around 100 people in the town of Bloléquin after briefly recapturing it from the Republican Forces. Hundreds of people had fled to the town prefecture during intense fighting between the two armed forces. When the pro-Gbagbo forces took control of the prefecture early on March 25, they separated out those from northern Côte d’Ivoire and West African immigrants and executed men, women, and children. A person who was being held by the Republican Forces at the Bloléquin prefecture when the Gbagbo forces arrived described to Human Rights Watch how he, unlike the scores who were executed, was spared:

It was around 4 a.m., and we could hear really loud clashes. The prefecture was shaking from the gunfire. The townspeople had generally been separated by their ethnic group into different rooms, and we, the Guéré, were lying down in a large room…. Just before 6 a.m., armed men broke into the room where we were. It was the Liberian mercenaries and some other pro-Gbagbo fighters. The mercenaries were led by a guy who goes by the name “Bob Marley.” As they broke into the room we put our hands up screaming, “We’re captives, we’re captives, don’t shoot!” They asked if there were any rebels among us, and we said “No, we’re all Guéré, we’re captives.” They led us out of the room and we started to see bodies all over the ground in other rooms. They had us go out the back, saying, “There are too many bodies in the main entry hall for you to pass by.” I could look and see bodies stacked up. There were women, men, and young children.
At the prefecture entrance, they had a Guéré militia guy standing there, who asked each person what ethnic group he was from—he spoke to the person in Guéré to hear if we could speak it as a mother tongue. If you could speak Guéré, they led you outside. If you couldn’t, they forced you into another direction. We’d combined with people from other rooms at this stage, so some were Dioula, Mossi, Malinké. I heard babies and women crying, they killed them all. They massacred them. We were standing outside and they had us wait while they opened fire on everyone who wasn’t Guéré. I don’t know how anyone could have survived. There was so much noise from the firing, from the crying. I have never heard anything like it.[145]

Another person interviewed by Human Rights Watch arrived in Bloléquin several days later and counted more than 70 bodies in the prefecture with gunshot wounds. He said that there were more bodies in the surrounding area that he had been unable to count. He confirmed that the victims were from ethnic groups from northern Côte d’Ivoire and neighboring West African countries.[146]

Human Rights Watch also documented the killing of 10 northern Ivorians and West African immigrants in Guiglo during the morning of March 29, when it was controlled by pro-Gbagbo militiamen and Liberian mercenaries, identified by their irregular uniforms, traditional amulets, and use of Guéré and English in communicating. Witnesses said that the perpetrators tied the victims together, then slit their throats.[147] Another person interviewed by Human Rights Watch, who saw the bodies the following day, identified two as Malians and another as Guinean.[148] The pro-Gbagbo forces left Guiglo on March 30, hours before the Republican Forces moved in. Human Rights Watch also documented the killing of eight Togolese nationals from Keibli in mid-March, before the village just outside Bloléquin was captured by Republican Forces. A Bloléquin resident interviewed by Human Rights Watch found their dismembered bodies in and around a lake.[149]

In both the Bloléquin and Bédi-Goazon massacres, witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the attackers were led by a Liberian mercenary whose nom de guerre was “Bob Marley.”[150] According to witnesses and several other credible accounts, including from former combatants in Liberia, “Bob Marley” worked for Gbagbo dating back to the 2002 armed conflict and used the village of Ziglo, just outside Bloléquin, as his base for recruiting and training Liberian mercenaries around the 2010 elections.[151]

According to news reports, Liberian authorities arrested “Bob Marley” in May 2011 in connection with his involvement in the Ivorian crisis.[152] At time of writing, he was being held in Monrovia, facing charges for “mercenarism” under Liberian law.[153]

Indiscriminate Shelling in Abidjan

During the month of March, in what appeared to be indiscriminate attacks under international humanitarian law, Gbagbo’s security forces fired heavy weapons, including mortars, that killed civilians in pro-Ouattara areas of Abidjan. The worst of these attacks took place in Abobo neighborhood and were primarily carried out by pro-Gbagbo soldiers who remained in the area’s gendarme base known as Camp Commando—the only part of Abobo still controlled by Gbagbo forces at this time. Human Rights Watch documented at least 30 deaths from indiscriminate shelling, in what likely amount to war crimes.

On March 17, multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch saw mortars fired from Camp Commando.[154] The first four shells landed in an area known as Abobo SOS during a five minute stretch between 12 and 1 p.m., collectively killing six—including two children under 10 years old—and wounding another 34.[155] One person, who still carries shrapnel from the attack in his neck and was wounded in multiple places, said, “I heard ‘BOOM’ and then fell down. I put my hand up to my head and saw blood running down my arm from my head. A Senegalese man nearby took shrapnel to his stomach and died…. When the shell exploded, there was a wind—Vooom—that blew out, with an intense heat.”

Soon after, two shells landed in Abobo’s Siaka Kone marketplace, killing at least 15 people and injuring some dozen more. Six men were having tea and chatting in a small market alleyway when one shell exploded several meters away; all were killed.[156] A 50-year-old man who was wounded by shrapnel from the same explosion described the scene:

It was just before 1 p.m., I was seated at a table here. We couldn’t go out to our jobs at this time because it was too dangerous to be in the open, so we were sitting here and talking, thinking it was safe. Then we heard the explosion—Boom. It caused a huge amount of dust to fly up, and combined with the noise, it provoked a panic, people were running in every direction…. When it exploded, it sent out little gunshots everywhere. Once the panic stopped, I saw thirteen people dead right there in the market. One of them was a 72-year-old man who was seated next to me. I had wounds in both of my legs and ankles, one of which required surgery…. Some of the wounds people had were so horrible we couldn’t even look at them. People had body parts that were blown off, others were completely deformed.[157]

Four other witnesses described the situation similarly, including one whose younger brother was wounded in the stomach and later died at the hospital.[158] All witnesses made clear that no military personnel or targets were in the area. When Human Rights Watch visited the scene in July 2011, hundreds of holes were still visible in tin roofs, metal doors, concrete walls, and anything else within 15 to 20 meters of where the shells exploded. The UN Human Rights Division investigated on the day of the attack and reported that at least six 81 mm mortar shells were fired, killing at least 25 and wounding another 40.[159]

Similar attacks on residential areas killed at least nine more between March 11 and 24; in one such attack, a women and her infant were killed.[160] The international commission of inquiry documented further shelling by Gbagbo’s forces in the neighborhoods of Williamsville, Yopougon, and Adjamé, citing at least 40 deaths and more than 100 wounded including the Abobo attacks.[161]

In response to the repeated shelling of civilian areas, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1975 on March 30, calling on UNOCI “to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence … including to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population.”[162] On April 3, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon asked President Sarkozy for Force Licorne’s assistance in these efforts; joint strikes by UN peacekeepers and Force Licorne began the next day against areas where Gbagbo forces were alleged to be firing heavy weapons against civilians.[163] They culminated in attacks on Gbagbo’s residence on April 11, just before the Republican Forces arrested the former president.[164] An Associated Press reporter counted more than 500 BM-21 missiles used in 122mm multiple rocket launchers in Gbagbo’s residence several days later; mortars, grenades, and heavy machine gun ammunition were also found, including at the residence of Gbagbo’s prime minister, Ake N’Gbo.[165]

Widespread Ethnic Killings and Rapes in Abidjan

Human Rights Watch documented more than 260 killings by pro-Gbagbo militias, mercenaries, and armed forces in Abidjan as the Republican Forces progressively took over the city. Gbagbo’s forces established checkpoints throughout the city and continued their months-long campaign of targeting northerners and West African immigrants. Prior to the Republican Forces’ arrival in each neighborhood, pro-Gbagbo forces inflicted a final wave of violence against Ouattara supporters—killing men, particularly youth, and subjecting women to sexual violence. Killings continued until the last days that Gbagbo forces remained in certain neighborhoods. Scores were killed in the long-time militia bastion of Yopougon in the days after Gbagbo’s arrest, leaving the neighborhood marked with dozens of communal graves and, for days on end, bodies strewn throughout the streets.

The killings documented by Human Rights Watch took place in Adjamé, Williamsville, Koumassi, Port Bouët, and Yopougon neighborhoods. Credible sources, including local human rights groups and neighborhood leaders of immigrant populations, had information about similar killings in other neighborhoods, like Treichville and Plateau, suggesting that the total number killed by pro-Gbagbo militias during this period is probably higher. Bodies were often burned, sometimes en masse, by pro-Gbagbo militiamen or by residents who could no longer tolerate the smell—leaving no trace except for small bone fragments.

Adjamé and Williamsville

Pro-Ouattara forces—particularly the Invisible Commandos—briefly expanded control down from Abobo into the neighborhoods of Adjamé and Williamsville on March 14. After pro-Gbagbo forces pushed them back in subsequent days, they targeted and killed dozens of perceived Ouattara supporters in the area. A 52-year-old woman who remained in Williamsville through most of the violence because her parents were too old to flee told Human Rights Watch:

It was after the [pro-Ouattara forces] were pushed back that youth in civilian attire from the university dorms [a common base for militia groups] started entering the neighborhood. Some of them wore red armbands. When they arrive, they fire their guns. Every day they fire and fire. Whenever we see them, we hide quickly…. With my own eyes I have seen them kill three people and seriously wound another…. Just yesterday, they killed four more below the bridge at the Mobil station. I was coming back from the market when I saw the four bodies already dead. The militiamen were still there, I passed and made like I didn’t see them…. One day they stopped me and wanted to shoot me, but one of them intervened and I was able to go.[166]

Killings became increasingly frequent as the Republican Forces moved closer to Abidjan. An Ivorian driver described the March 28 killing of three Malian butchers by militiamen wearing black t-shirts and red armbands. The men shot the butchers as they were fetching a cow in Williamsville.[167] A Senegalese man who was shot in the arm in Adjamé by armed men in uniform described how two of his Senegalese friends were shot dead in the same March 17 incident: “The armed men pointed their guns at them and shot…. They didn’t ask any questions, they just shot them point blank.”[168] Another witness described the March 30 killing of a civilian stopped at a militia checkpoint in Adjamé:

At noon, the militiamen stopped a pick-up truck and asked the driver and his apprentice for their ID papers. The driver was told to go ahead, but they pulled the apprentice out of the passenger seat and fired four times at him; his body is still in the street. This is their way of targeting foreigners… They judge your background from your ID papers. If you’re an ECOWAS national or from the north, they take you out and—too often—shoot and kill. With some 10 such checkpoints in Adjamé now, these kinds of killings are becoming the norm.[169]

While militiamen were often perpetrators, witnesses also identified regular security forces in some attacks. A 40 year-old man from Burkina Faso was one of nine West African immigrants detained by armed, uniformed men he believed to be policemen at an Adjamé checkpoint on March 29, and later taken into a police station and shot:

At 8:30 a.m., I was stopped at a checkpoint on my way to work. They asked for my ID and after seeing my name, told me to get into a 4x4 nearby. I got in; there were eight others there. The police vehicle took us to the 11th police commissariat. Just behind the commissariat there is a camp, which is where it all happened. The police pushed us in and yelled at us, “Are you brothers of the rebellion?” I said no but obviously it wasn’t a real question. Then they said, “If you are Burkinabé, go over there to the left. If you are Malian, go to the left.” So we all went left. Then they turned left and fired on us… Six of us died. I got shot in the arm and the kidneys and it looked bad, so they left me for dead. The police left directly after. It was clear they were police because of their uniform; even the 4x4 was a police vehicle, marked as such, and the camp was the police camp at the commissariat. Two of the dead were Burkinabés; I learned the other six were Malian…. I couldn’t sleep last night because of the sutures and the memories.[170]

The violence in Adjamé ultimately provoked the mass exodus of northern Ivorians and West African immigrants, who sought refuge in their respective embassies or with family members outside of Abidjan or in other neighborhoods.

Koumassi/Port Bouët

Human Rights Watch also documented scores of killings in Koumassi and Port Bouët as the Republican Forces and pro-Gbagbo forces fought for control of Abidjan between March 31 and Gbagbo’s April 11 arrest. As the southernmost neighborhoods of Abidjan—opposite where the Republican Forces entered the city—they were two of the last three neighborhoods to fall. Indeed, neither saw particularly intense fighting, as the Republican Forces did not need to control them to arrest Gbagbo; most pro-Gbagbo militiamen fled the neighborhood around the time of Gbagbo’s arrest.

While fighting was going on elsewhere in the city, however, real and perceived Ouattara supporters in these neighborhoods were consistently targeted by the Young Patriots, FESCI, and CECOS soldiers. Militiamen killed at least 18 residents of Port Bouët, primarily West African immigrants, during attacks on April 2 and 4.[171] More were killed as they fled the attack toward other neighborhoods. As pro-Gbagbo militiamen attacked on April 2, hundreds fled toward the Force Licorne base nearby. Upon hearing that the Licorne base could not house them, residents continued toward Koumassi. One witness described what followed:

There were more than a hundred of us running. As we came towards the building in Koumassi Sicogi where many militiamen lived, we fell into an ambush. It was around Camp Commando [a gendarme base]. They opened fire, and as I was running I stepped into a hole and tore my knee. I fell to the ground, and there were six bodies around me—two next to me, and four more in front, just meters away. The shooters came toward us, wearing Gbagbo t-shirts and black pants. I pretended that I was dead; I knew that otherwise they would kill me. They touched each of us with their guns, and one of them said, “They’re dead, let’s go.” At about 7, 8 a.m., a French patrol came. I couldn’t move because of my knee, but I screamed for their attention, and they came and got me.[172]

Another witness interviewed by Human Rights Watch watched the April 7 execution of four brothers at a militia checkpoint near the same Camp Commando, located near a main entrance to Koumassi.[173] Late that afternoon, a resident who lived less than 100 meters from this checkpoint told Human Rights Watch that he snuck close to the site and filmed 24 bodies lying along the street.[174] Numerous witnesses said that, by several days later, there were merely blackened areas along the road where the militia had burned bodies.


As the longtime base of Gbagbo’s militias and the final battle zone in the fight for Abidjan, Yopougon neighborhood was the site of particularly intense killings against perceived pro-Ouattara groups. Many killings occurred in the days after Gbagbo’s arrest, as militiamen overtly sought retribution.

In the largely Muslim Mami-Faitai section of Yopougon, Human Rights Watch saw what appeared to be eight common graves, each containing between 2 and 18 bodies according to people involved in the burials.[175] At least 46 people were killed in the area between April 11 and 13. The residents of Mami-Faitai had created a checkpoint at their neighborhood’s entrance, where, several residents said, unarmed youth signaled if attackers were coming by banging pots and pans. Residents described how seven attackers in BAE (the anti-riot unit) uniforms descended on the checkpoint just after midnight on April 11 and killed 18 people. A survivor who pretended to be dead after being shot told Human Rights Watch:

When they arrived, they yelled, “Everyone lay down.” Since they all had Kalashes, we had no choice. There were 18 of us there who lay down, 16 of whom were killed. They took our cell phones; one of them said, “Now you won’t be able to call ONUCI [UN peacekeepers] anymore.” They demanded our names; the first two were Ibrahima and Boubakar. They charged their weapons and one said, “It’s you that caught President Gbagbo, you’re going to pay. We’re going to make a mass grave in your neighborhood today.” I was the leader of the group, so I said, “We’re youth from the neighborhood; we’re unarmed. We’re not rebels, we’re not politicians, we’re just protecting our neighborhood, our women.”
One of them put his foot down on me and shot into my back [wound seen by HRW]. It didn’t kill me though. I lay there like I was dead, hoping they wouldn’t notice and shoot me again. He kicked me, and I didn’t respond…. After a second kick, he moved to the next person. All seven of them were shooting by this time—killing one after another…. When the people in our neighborhood heard the gunshots, many came out to defend us. But the Gbagbo guys fired to push back the crowd. Two more bodies were found by the mosque nearby; people who had tried to come help us.[176]

A 65-year-old man, who lived in the same neighborhood and lost five sons when militiamen climbed into his compound around 9 a.m. on April 12, said:

They were going house by house to kill. They were more than 10 that jumped the fence into my compound. Most were in civilian clothes—all black, a few masking their faces with charcoal—but others wore military pants. All had Kalashes. They broke the first door, in which three of my sons were hiding. I was inside the main door, the metal one, which is what saved me. They couldn’t break it down like the two wood doors in the courtyard. They fired their guns after they jumped over the fence; we all heard and ran to listen and look through a hole in the door.
I watched as they pulled out three of my boys from the first room. They forced them to lay down on their stomachs in the hall and shot them at point-blank range. First they took everything of value from them, then one opened fire, “pop-pop,” on each son. They demanded money, and my sons gave it to them; they demanded clothes, my sons gave it to them; they demanded the TV, cell phones. Everything was given, yet the militiamen killed them. They yelled that we, the Dioula, were rebels that had taken over the country. Another said, “It’s your brothers that captured Gbagbo yesterday.” They pillaged that bedroom, then went to the second door where two more boys slept. They broke down that door too and immediately shot one who was standing up, right in the chest. One of the attackers then said, “We’ve taken care of four of them, that’s enough, let’s go.” But another said no. The fifth son was hiding under his bed. They pulled him out and shot him. Several stayed for more than an hour, while the others continued their killing elsewhere. One of them broke open the fridge and, with the five bodies on the ground, took out couscous, bissap [juice], and ate right there. Crumbs were left on the ground right by the bodies. Around 2 p.m., we stopped hearing gunfire and went out. When I saw the bodies, I was in shock, I couldn’t even cry. We marched through blood to get out of the compound, the five bodies just lying there. Bullet holes had gone into the concrete floor. We couldn’t take the time to bury them, as we didn’t know when the militiamen would return. When we came back, we were told by a few who had hidden in the neighborhood that the militiamen had packed the bodies together and set them on fire. Burn marks were in front of our compound. We found some remains of bones, but nothing more.[177]

In the Doukouré sub-neighborhood of Yopougon, 29 people lie in a single mass grave from the April 12 killings, according to several residents who helped bury the bodies on April 13.[178] At least seven more graves are nearby in the same dusty parking lot for the neighborhood mosque, with body counts between one and twelve, according to others who assisted in the burials.[179] As they went from house to house killing, the militiamen also raped women, including a 23-year-old:

Around 2:30 in the afternoon the militiamen knocked on the door to the courtyard. Before we could even come to open it, they’d broken it down. My husband raised his hands. They demanded his ethnicity, his identity card. He said, “I’m Dioula,” and they said, “Ah, it’s you that supports Alassane.” He didn’t respond, but as they grabbed his identity papers, they shot him in the arm and then his ribs. Then they told the women to take off their clothes and lay down, or they would shoot us. I begged for forgiveness, but one of them called in the others who had remained outside. First, five more came in, then one went out to call in more, and three more came. They all had weapons. The first who entered wore military fatigues and carried a Kalash. The others were in civilian dress and had knives and machetes. There were three women in the rooms that share the courtyard, and they raped all of us. One militiaman raped each woman. They forced us to turn around and then raped us. After they finished, they took everything we owned, left us with nothing.[180]

Human Rights Watch documented 21 rapes by pro-Gbagbo forces in Doukouré and Mami-Faitai in the week after Gbagbo’s arrest. At least 9 occurred, like the one described above, during the April 12 attacks. Rapes also continued in subsequent days, however, as some women tried to return home to get essential belongings for their families then in hiding.

Killings within areas controlled by the militias continued through the final days of the battle for Yopougon. On April 25, pro-Gbagbo militiamen took advantage of a brief movement by the Republican Forces out of Yopougon Andokoi to set up a roadblock. Two Malian brothers came into the neighborhood around noon, thinking it was safe, and were stopped at the checkpoint. The older brother, interviewed by Human Rights Watch, escaped but looked back to see that his 26-year-old brother been stopped. After the Republican Forces took back the area that night, the older brother returned to find his brother’s half-charred body stacked next to five more victims who had been burned almost beyond recognition.[181] On April 27, retreating militiamen burned Locodjoro, one of the last areas to fall to the Republican Forces, to the ground. They destroyed hundreds of homes, and according to witnesses, they detained, bound, and executed two Malians. One was on his way into the area to save his mother who had been unable to flee earlier violence.[182]

Yopougon residents from both political parties said they had seen a few well-known militia leaders in and around the sub-neighborhoods of Yopougon where large numbers of killings occurred. Witnesses described repeatedly seeing militia leader Bah Dora in the area of Toit Rouge. Witnesses there described the involvement of militiamen under Bah’s command in multiple killings of civilians from alleged pro-Ouattara groups.[183] Several neighborhood residents told Human Rights Watch that Bah was captured by the Republican Forces and held at the 19th precinct police station.[184] Two witnesses also said they saw Maho Glofiei, a longtime militia leader from western Côte d’Ivoire, in Yopougon just before Gbagbo’s arrest.[185]

Republican Forces Military Offensive

On March 17, Ouattara signed a decree creating the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire as the country’s “official” armed forces. The Republican Forces included the former Forces Nouvelles fighters as well as members of the national army and security forces who joined Ouattara’s side.[186] The decree was promulgated around three weeks after the Forces Nouvelles, under the command of Ouattara’s Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro, first launched an offensive in Zouan-Hounien, a town on the Liberian border. By March 29, after a month of tense fighting with primarily pro-Gbagbo militias and mercenaries, the now-created Republican Forces controlled the west. In the subsequent two days, town after town fell throughout southern, central, and eastern Côte d’Ivoire as attacks opened up on three fronts. By March 31, the Republican Forces converged on Abidjan and began a battle that would culminate in Gbagbo’s April 11 arrest. Fighting continued, however, through the first week of May, as pro-Gbagbo militiamen fought on in their stronghold of Yopougon neighborhood.

Until their military offensive began in the country’s far west, armed elements loyal to Ouattara were implicated in few serious abuses. However, wherever they met stiff resistance once armed conflict began—primarily in the west and Abidjan—soldiers systematically targeted civilians perceived to support Gbagbo. Men, especially youth, were particularly targeted for their perceived affiliation with militias, but the elderly, women, and children were also killed. In total, hundreds were killed, most along ethnic lines, and dozens of women were raped. These abuses at times implicated high levels of the Republican Forces leadership, either directly or through command responsibility.

Killings, Rape, and Pillage in the Far West

Armed clashes between pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo forces began in the west on February 25, around the town of Zouan-Hounien. After quickly taking Zouan-Hounien and Bin-Houyé along the Liberian border, the Republican Forces faced much greater resistance in Toulepleu, Doké, Bloléquin, and Duékoué.[187] On March 10, Soro acknowledged Commander Fofana Losséni as Republican Forces’ leader in the “pacification of the far west,” with the mandate “to protect the populations in the name of Ouattara’s government.”[188] Witnesses and Ivorian newspaper reports also identified Captain Eddie Médi as the military offensive’s field leader from Zouan-Hounien through Guiglo.[189]

As combat waged throughout March, the Republican Forces targeted alleged pro-Gbagbo civilians. Soro visited the Republican Forces in Toulepleu on March 9 and 10, which does not appear to have reduced the abuses.

Human Rights Watch documented the killing of civilians by pro-Ouattara forces in at least a dozen villages around Toulepleu and Bloléquin, including by point-blank execution, dismemberment, and immolation. While the majority of the region’s ethnic Guérés fled in anticipation of the Republican Forces’ attack, those who remained were subjected to collective punishment for the group’s perceived support for Gbagbo. The international commission of inquiry similarly found “that in arriving in the different towns, the FRCI and their allies likewise committed a number of acts of violence against populations considered favorable to former president Gbagbo….”[190]

A 57-year-old Guéré man from Zoguiné, a village between Toulepleu and the nearby official border crossing into Liberia, described to Human Rights Watch how the Republican Forces executed a farmer walking home, burned his mother alive, and destroyed his village:

The rebels[191] arrived at my village on Monday, March 7, at 10 a.m. The women in the village had already fled once we heard Toulepleu had been attacked. But my mother remained because she couldn’t flee, and then there were 14 men who stayed as well. Most of us were in the village, but one was in his fields outside the village.
Seven of the rebels entered. When we heard the firing we all fled to the bush. But the guy at his plantation didn’t know they’d come. He came back to his house and when he did, they fired on him and hit him in his knee so he couldn’t walk. They were in military fatigues, all of them, and they had white bandanas on their heads. Some of them had charcoal on their faces; others had red paint on. The rest of us were hidden in the bush and watched from 100, maybe 200 meters away. They shot him in his knee with a Kalash from about 10, 20 meters. They came to him after that first shot and aimed their guns at him. Then [our neighbor] yelled out to us, “Come back from the bush! It’s not the rebels who’ve come. It’s our protectors [the pro-Gbagbo troops].” They tried to trick us. But we could see them with their guns pointed at him. So we didn’t move. After a couple minutes, they must have realized we weren’t coming back. They set fire to his house, and then several of them grabbed him and dragged him along the ground. They must have dragged him 85 meters, bringing him toward the main road that runs through the village. Then they shot him at point-blank range and cut out his insides with a long knife. They left his body there.
Then they went back into the village and started breaking into all the houses. They searched those close to the road and took everything of value. They set fire to the houses that had straw roofs. My mother was old and sick and couldn’t leave her bed. They burned her house with her still in it. I found her burned body later, after they left. I watched as they burned my house after stealing everything. Since they’d come to the village on foot, they amassed all of the belongings along the main road. And then they called in their companions who arrived with a military cargo truck to take it all away. They took TVs, radios, anything they could get their hands on. They slaughtered all of our animals—just opened fire on them with their Kalashes—before getting into the truck.[192]

In a few towns and villages, the Republican Forces arrived sooner than expected, before most people had taken flight, and opened fire as the panicked population tried to flee into the surrounding bush. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of killings during such instances in Toulepleu, Diboké, Doké, and Bloléquin.

Witnesses said the Republican Forces often went house-to-house after occupying a village, killing many who remained. A 23-year-old woman from Diboké told Human Rights Watch that fighters from the Republican Forces entered her house and killed her mother, father, and younger brother. She escaped through a window, ultimately fleeing to Liberia.[193] A 25-year-old woman from Bloléquin hid under her bed as pro-Ouattara forces entered her house and killed her 20-year-old sister.[194] In at least four cases documented by Human Rights Watch, victims had parts of their arms cut off and then their insides cut out with long knives—two while still alive, two others after they had been shot.[195]

After working through the towns and villages, some Republican Forces fanned out on foot on the smaller roads into areas where residents work on cocoa plantations—killing additional people who believed they had fled to safety. In one of several such accounts, a 47-year-old woman told Human Rights Watch:

When we heard that the rebels were coming, my family fled to our campement (the small camp near their cocoa plantation). It’s two kilometers outside of Doké, on a road you can only get to on foot or motorbike. We thought we would be safe there, even if there was fighting in the town. On March 16, I was with my father, husband, and 10-year-old son. My sister and her children were also there. We were preparing food when two rebels came across us in the bush. One of them was dressed in full military camouflage with a white bandana; the other one had on military pants and a black t-shirt. Perhaps they’d seen the fire, that’s how they found us.
They saw me first, and they opened fire from 20 or 30 meters away. I went to the ground and pretended I was dead. They hadn’t hit me. Then they saw the others and went toward them. They opened fire again, and they killed my family—my son, my husband, and my father were all killed. They were shooting with big guns, guns that fired quickly like “boom-boom-boom.” I lay there, watching as my boy fell down dead, but I couldn’t cry. If I cried they would know I was still alive, and they would have killed me. But why am I still alive? They have taken my son, my husband, and my father. I have nothing. I’m no longer alive anyway…. They left and after a little time I got up and looked at the bodies. Blood had run into the ground, but none of them were moving anymore. My boy had been hit with two bullets, one in the chest and the other one in the stomach. I held him and cried silently.[196]

After summarily killing Guéré civilians found in a village, the Republican Forces often proceeded to pillage and burn houses, according to witnesses. Human Rights Watch documented the partial burning of at least 10 Guéré villages around Toulepleu and Bloléquin. Several witnesses described watching, while hiding in the bush, Ouattara’s forces burn even buildings used to store the village’s rice and rice seed.[197]

Summary Executions of Detained Civilians, Primarily the Elderly

As the Republican Forces swept through, those who were elderly or ill, as well as family members who refused to leave loved ones who were unable to flee, often remained behind in their houses. In at least several instances, Republican Forces locked these people in one or several village houses and killed them in the days that followed. Human Rights Watch documented the killing of more than 30 Guérés who had been unable to flee with their families; in the vast majority of cases, the Republican Forces shot elderly victims at point-blank range. Scores of other refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they left behind elderly relatives in other villages around Toulepleu and Bloléquin, suggesting that this death toll could be higher.

A 21-year-old Guéré woman from a village near Toulepleu described how in early March, she, her family, and five other villagers were detained. She was raped, her husband was killed for trying to defend her, and others were executed:

The village was attacked by rebels [around March 7]. The loyalists [pro-Gbagbo troops] had been in the village for some time, but they fled right before the rebels arrived. My husband, two children, and I hid in our house. The rebels found us and took us to the village chief’s house, where we were held for around a week, together with five other villagers, including two women. Every day they took someone out and shot him in front of the house. The rebels would enter, take the person out, and then a shot would be fired and the person never came back. On the fifth day I was raped inside the house by one of the rebels. He raped me right in front of my children. When my husband tried to defend me, they took him outside, fired a shot, and he never came back.[198]

A 67-year-old woman from Doké, where fighting between Ouattara and Gbagbo forces took place on March 13, similarly described to Human Rights Watch the execution of 20 Guéré civilians, the majority elderly men and women:

I woke up to gunfire the first day they attacked Doké. I was in my house, and when I heard the shooting I ran outside. The rebels caught me immediately. Some of them were in military camouflage; some were in t-shirts with military pants. There were military cargo trucks and 4x4s around town. Six of them trapped me along with four other people. They locked us in one of the bigger houses in the village. When they put us there, one said, “We didn’t come here for you. We didn’t come here to kill you.” … The second day, they brought more people to the house. Some were from the village, mostly other aged or sick people that couldn’t flee. And then there were similar people from neighboring villages that they brought there. Altogether we were more than 30, more than 40 people even. We were all over 45 years old…. What fight did they have with us?
It was this day that they started to kill. The rebels pulled people out of the house and executed them right in front. I could look out and watch it all. I was so surprised the first time, we all cried out knowing then we were going to die. They grabbed an elderly man—it was three of them that came in—they pulled him outside, told him to start walking away, and then shot him from two, three meters away. His body just went down to the ground. Then they came in and grabbed another person. That day they killed our village chief…. In total they killed more than 20 people held there, some every day. After three days of killings, they brought some of the bodies together and burned them. The smell was horrible from all the decaying bodies outside….
They’d slammed my foot with a Kalash that first day, so my foot was really inflamed. A young rebel came to me because of my injury and said that I was to go into the bush and collect wood to cook for them later. He told his friend I couldn’t run away because my foot was so inflamed. They didn’t realize I was still strong, that I knew if I stayed I’d be killed. So when I went into the bush to get that wood, I made my escape. I was in the bush for two weeks…. I still don’t know where my husband and children are.[199]

An 84-year-old man held in another house in Doké with six other Guérés described how on the fifth day of their captivity, uniformed Republican Forces soldiers locked the one-room house in which they were being detained and then opened fire through the walls. Five of the seven captives died immediately, all of them over 50 years old, and the witness had three gunshot wounds in his left leg.[200] Pro-Ouattara forces left the village—which was briefly taken back over by pro-Gbagbo forces without a fight that day—allowing the man to escape with another survivor. They found a car that took them to Guiglo, where the Red Cross treated him. Faced with another imminent attack by the Republican Forces in Guiglo, the 84-year-old man spent two weeks traveling more than 100 kilometers on foot to cross into Liberia and find refuge in a village there.[201]

Rape and other Sexual Violence

Human Rights Watch documented 23 cases of rape and other sexual violence by the Republican Forces as they advanced through the west. All the victims were Guéré. In several instances, the attackers referred to the victim’s ethnicity before or during the rape. Credible reports from humanitarian organizations working along the Liberian-Ivorian border suggest dozens more cases.

In a few instances, combatants seized women and girls during their initial attack on a village, forced them into the surrounding bush, and raped them. A 31-year-old woman from Bohobli, a village near Toulepleu, decided not to flee as the Ouattara forces advanced because her grandmother could not leave and because of her own disabled foot. She told Human Rights Watch that three armed men entered her house. One fighter killed the grandmother with a machete, while the other two dragged the woman into the bush, where one raped her.[202]

In the majority of documented cases, fighters held women captive in houses for one or several days, gang raping them repeatedly before moving on to the next town or village. Around March 7 or 8, the Republican Forces moved through Basobli, about 10 kilometers from Toulepleu toward the Liberian border. While most inhabitants fled once they heard that Toulepleu fell, a 25-year-old woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch stayed to look after her brothers and sisters:

Armed rebels arrived in the village. Seven of them took over my family home and held me captive for two nights with three younger brothers and sisters and one cousin. Three of the seven men raped me in the house multiple times both nights. The rebels were always there, but during the day I was allowed to walk around the village. Three other women in the village were being held in their homes; I spoke with them during the day, and the women said they were being raped as well. When we talked the third day, we decided to flee. I got my family and when we saw the chance, we fled into the bush.[203]

After the pro-Ouattara forces took over Bloléquin on March 20, they similarly held men and women captive who had been caught in the fighting and were unable to flee. In a villa not far from the prefecture where several Republican Forces’ commanders were staying, combatants repeatedly raped eight young Guéré women, including several girls, as described by a man held with them:

I was taken to a house in Bloléquin along with 15 other captives. It was a very large villa in town. The FAFN [Forces Nouvelles] military leaders were staying at the town prefecture, but another group of FAFN had commandeered this house which wasn’t too far away. They kept us there as prisoners. Of the 16, eight were women—some girls, 14, 15 years old. All of us were Guéré…. During the night, they came and grabbed the women, who would cry and plead with the soldiers not to touch them. All the FAFN had the same idea, to rape the women, especially the youngest. The first time, three soldiers came at the same time and one said as he grabbed a girl, “Your Guéré husbands wanted war with us, so we’ll give them war.”
They even fought among themselves, right in front of us, over who would get to be with which girl. All night they took the girls—one or two FAFN would grab one, take the girl into a room across the hall, or downstairs—and then rape them. I listened to the cries all night; I didn’t sleep, none of us did. Then the girls would be brought back, and another FAFN would take his turn. We were all kept in the same room, and the girls would come back and tell us that the soldiers had raped them over and over. They said that the soldiers would put a gun or machete to their neck, tell them to undress, and then rape them.[204]

The above crimes—killings as the Republican Forces entered villages, executions of the elderly who could not flee, sexual violence, and the burning of villages—appear to have been principally committed by forces under the direct command of Captain Eddie Médi (see Text Box below for more information on Médi).[205] Previously the Forces Nouvelles commander in Danané, Médi’s forces moved from Zouan-Hounien to Toulepleu and then over through Bloléquin to Guiglo during their March offensive.[206] They left a documented path of killings and rapes. In an March 17, 2011, interview, Médi’s chief of staff Dion Robert said that Médi “is always at the front of his troops,”[207]making it likely that, at a minimum, he saw at least some of the war crimes committed. Reporting by the Associated Press indicates that abuses by Médi’s troops continued in subsequent months, including a horrific massacre of 47 Guérés near the Liberian border the day after Ouattara’s inauguration. Médi admitted to the journalist that he had sent troops to that area on the day in question, but said it was in response to activity by pro-Gbagbo mercenaries.[208]

Pattern of Abuse: Two Republican Forces Commanders with a History of Overseeing Troops Who Commit Serious Crimes

Captain Eddie Médi: As noted above, Médi oversaw armed forces in the far west that murdered, raped, and burned villages on political and ethnic grounds. During the 2002-2003 armed conflict, Médi was a commander in the Mouvement pour la Justice et la Paix (MJP) rebel group that joined two others in forming the Forces Nouvelles. A Nord-Sud article states that, starting in November 2002, he played an active role in “different battles for control of western towns, including Man, Danané, and Bangolo” and then “routed Liberian mercenaries” who had overseen massacres in Bangolo. [209] On March 7, 2003, Liberian mercenaries supporting Gbagbo were indeed implicated in a massacre of some 60 mostly Dioula residents of Bangolo, as documented by Human Rights Watch at that time. [210] Two weeks later, however, on March 22, rebel forces committed a massacre against Guéré civilians in Dah village just outside Bangolo in what “was most likely a reprisal attack” according to the same 2003 Human Rights Watch report. [211] Whether Médi was specifically involved in this attack is unclear, but the information in the Nord-Sud profile indicates that he was at least a commanding officer for the MJP around Bangolo at that time. An International Crisis Group report found that, in April 2003, the MJP there “prevented access … for four days” to MICECI troops (the ECOWAS mission to Côte d’Ivoire in 2003) sent to investigate the massacre. By the time the MJP allowed MICECI to enter, no physical evidence of a massacre remained. [212]

In a 2004 interview with the newspaper Fratérnité-Matin, Médi, by then the commanding officer of Forces Nouvelles’ military operations in the area, [213] was specifically asked about reports of massacres, rape, and other criminal acts by his forces. He responded that after the formal Gbagbo forces had fled, youth that had been armed remained in the villages and offered a “strong resistance.” He continued, “While there may have been excesses in some areas, I believe it was due to the resistance done to us…. The Bangolo events are not just imputable to our movement…. A lot of those that are speaking don’t have any proof that the acts they describe were from us.” [214] Many of the same explanations would be given by the Republican Forces—comprising many of the same commanders—when implicated in similar abuses in 2011.

Commander Ousmane Coulibaly (known commonly by his former nom de guerre, “Ben Laden”): As discussed below in the section on the final battle for Abidjan, Ousmane Coulibaly was in charge of troops in Yopougon neighborhood that witnesses and victims repeatedly implicated in killings, torture, and arbitrary detentions. The U.S. State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report on Côte d’Ivoire shows that Coulibaly may previously be implicated under command responsibility for grave crimes, stating, “Corporal Alpha Diabate, a close aide of FN Zone 8 commander Coulibaly Ousmane, was identified as the perpetrator responsible for torturing three cattle breeders in Odienne in May 2008. FN authorities had not taken any action against Diabate at year’s end.” [215] Moreover, back in early and mid-2003, Ousmane Coulibaly was a leading military commander in the MJP rebel group in the western town of Man. MJP, later part of the Forces Nouvelles, had close ties to Charles Taylor and Liberian mercenaries. [216] Human Rights Watch, [217] International Crisis Group,[218] the 2004 international commission of inquiry, [219] and Amnesty International [220] implicated the MJP forces in and around Man in grave international crimes. Ousmane Coulibaly was not named as having ordered such crimes, but was a commander of operations overseeing troops that engaged in such acts. [221]

Duékoué Massacre Involving Republican Forces

After the Republican Forces took control of Duékoué in the early morning of March 29, they and allied militias massacred hundreds of Guéré residents in the town’s Carrefour neighborhood. Human Rights Watch interviewed eight women who witnessed the events, as well as several people who helped count or bury the bodies in the subsequent days. Five witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch clearly identified Republican Forces among the attackers, saying they arrived in trucks, 4x4s, and on foot in military uniforms. Others described seeing two pro-Ouattara militias that worked closely with the Republican Forces in committing abuses against the civilian population: a traditional hunter and civil defense group known as the Dozo, generally armed with shotguns and identified by witnesses by their unique, traditional outfits; and a group of Burkinabé militiamen who live in the region and are led by Amadé Ouérémi. The international commission of inquiry,[222] Amnesty International,[223] and the International Federation of Human Rights[224]all found similarly that Republican Forces soldiers were directly involved in the Duékoué massacre, participating alongside militia groups like the Dozo.[225]

The Carrefour neighborhood’s residents have long had a concentrated presence of pro-Gbagbo militiamen, and in the days prior to the Republican Forces’ takeover, there were militia and mercenary killings against Ouattara supporters. However, according to witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch, the pro-Ouattara forces executed men not believed to be militia members, including boys and older men. Statements made by members of the pro-Ouattara forces demonstrate that they were targeting the neighborhood’s population as collective punishment against the Guéré. A 39-year-old woman described the killing of her husband as well as dozens of others, in a statement similar to numerous others:

It was Tuesday morning [March 29], right after the [pro-Ouattara] rebels took control of Duékoué, that they came into the neighborhood and started shooting everywhere. There had to have been 500 of them…. They went house-to-house and took the men out to kill them. Two of them broke down my door and entered the house; they forced my husband outside. Several others were carrying a flame and set the house on fire. I came out screaming behind them, and they shot my husband at point-blank range with a large gun…. The rebels were saying, “We’re here to kill Gbagbo, but since you the Guéré voted for Gbagbo, we’ll kill you until the last Guéré.” Then the rebels moved on to the next house, leaving me there screaming. My husband, my brother-in-law, several cousins, they were all killed by Alassane’s forces that day. Most of the attackers throughout the neighborhood were in military uniform—the Republican Forces uniforms. Many had on red headscarves. Others were the Dozo in the traditional clothes and some Dioula youth who came with knives and machetes. The Republican Forces came in first by car and on foot, and the rest followed. They killed unarmed people everywhere. I saw people who had their throats slit with machetes and knives, others executed by gunshot. You could see the blood marking the road from all those who were killed. Bodies were everywhere. You could just see lines of bodies from those they’d marched out and shot…. Most of those killed were males, but they killed boys like men like the elderly. I saw them kill boys right in front of my eyes. One of them couldn’t be more than 10 years old and as they pulled him out he looked at me so scared and said, “Mama, please,” and they shot him.[226]

A 29-year-old woman from Carrefour similarly described her husband’s killing, followed by the forcible recruitment of her 15-year-old brother:

Around 8 a.m., they began attacking the Carrefour neighborhood…. There were many, many of them. There were Dozo, Amadé’s men, armed youth in civilian clothes, and FN soldiers. We were hiding in our house, my brother, my husband and our baby. The forces came and said, “Women leave, men we’ll kill you,” and everyone started trying to escape. We did the same. At 1 p.m. we fled our house and were on foot along the main route near the bridge. There were many corpses in the streets, pro-Ouattara forces everywhere in the middle of killings. I saw people being shot with Kalashes around us in the streets as we fled, but I couldn’t pay attention, I was too scared. A 4x4 passed us; one of them saw us and pulled over…. Three men got out and stopped my husband. They said, “We are looking for Guérés. You voted for Gbagbo, we are going to kill all of you. You are Guéré.” He said, “No, I voted for ADO,” but they said “No you didn’t, you’re Guéré so you voted Gbagbo.” We didn’t vote in fact. They pulled my husband away from me. I had our 6-month-old baby in my arms. They were chanting “ADO! ADO! You are all Guérés, you who voted Gbabgo! You didn’t vote ADO, we are going to kill you all. You’re all Gbagbos here.”
Then they shot my husband in his stomach. All three of them fired their Kalashes at him, even when he was just in front of them. They looked at my six-month-old baby and decided my baby couldn’t be of use, but my 15-year-old brother was there. He was crying, “Why did you kill him?” Killing my husband wasn’t enough…. They said, “Today you will become a soldier. We are going to take you to Man. In Man, you will become a soldier.” Man is where the [Forces Nouvelles] base is. They took him by force to the truck. There were at least six other young boys inside waiting, including children that looked as young as 10. I didn’t recognize them, but they were in civilian clothes, with fear on their faces. I heard the boys begging forgiveness as the men came back, but the soldiers didn’t reply. They pushed my brother in with the others and drove off. I’ve had no news of him since.
The men who killed my husband were military men carrying knives, machetes, and Kalashes. They were wearing warriors’ gris-gris [traditional amulets often worn by northern fighters], jeans, and military camouflage tops. It was clear they were pro-Ouattara forces; they were singing ADO. FN had taken the city that day; the Dozos and the Burkinabés were out on the streets too, burning things and killing people, going house to house. There was not a single house left untouched in Carrefour…. My apartment doesn’t exist anymore; it was burned like the others.[227]

A religious leader in Duékoué who went to the Carrefour neighborhood on March 31 told Human Rights Watch that hundreds of bodies were still there, including 13 in a church called l’Eglise du Christianisme Céleste. One was the pastor, riddled by bullets in his religious attire.[228]

Final Battle for Abidjan and Subsequent Weeks

The pattern of abuse first seen during the Republican Forces military offensive in the west continued as they captured Abidjan in April and proceeded to search for weapons and militiamen. Active fighting with pro-Gbagbo militias and mercenaries indeed continued in Yopougon neighborhood well after Gbagbo’s April 11, with the last corners of Yopougon liberated—and the last groups of militiamen fleeing—around May 8. As in the west, the Republican Forces took control of areas to find that many from their ethnic groups had been murdered by retreating Gbagbo militiamen. At times in systematic and organized operations, and at times in simple revenge, the Republican Forces engaged in collective punishment against young males from ethnic groups aligned with Gbagbo—committing extrajudicial executions in neighborhoods and detention sites and subjecting scores more to inhumane treatment that at times reached the level of torture.

In the months after Human Rights Watch’s investigations, the UNOCI Human Rights Division continued to document killings and other abuses by the Republican Forces, including eight killings and additional cases of torture and inhumane treatment between June 17 and 23,[229] as well as 26 extrajudicial executions and 85 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention between July 11 and August 10.[230]

Killings and Other Abuses During Patrols and Search Operations

Human Rights Watch documented 95 killings by Republican Forces soldiers during search operations during and subsequent to active fighting with pro-Gbagbo forces. Two executions occurred between May 23 and 24, following Ouattara’s May 21 inauguration. The vast majority of killings documented by Human Rights Watch took place in Yopougon, a neighborhood heavily concentrated with Gbagbo supporters and former militia bases. Yopougon appears to have been disproportionately targeted for reprisal killings as the Republican Forces meted out deadly collective punishment against young men from the Bété, Attié, Guéré, and Goro ethnic groups. Numerous neighborhood residents told Human Rights Watch that the militiamen and mercenaries, who had for months targeted and killed pro-Ouattara groups, had largely fled prior to the Republican Forces’ takeover, so that those who remained were civilians, presumed to be Gbagbo supporters. Yopougon, with a population of around 1 million, is divided into dozens of smaller sub-neighborhoods. While the Republican Forces committed violence throughout Yopougon—and to a lesser extent in Koumassi and Port Bouët neighborhoods—more than 70 of the documented killings occurred in the sub-neighborhoods of Koweit and Yaosseh.


Koweit was one of the last areas of Abidjan to fall, with fighting ending around May 3. In the days and weeks that followed, the Republican Forces conducted house-to-house searches. Males from pro-Gbagbo groups appear to have been targeted for abuse. Human Rights Watch also documented one case of rape. A 34-year-old woman from Yopougon Koweit described how she was brutally raped by a Republican Forces soldier on May 8, then saw the Republican Forces kill 18 youth:

Guys in military uniform arrived that morning at 9 and said they were searching for weapons. Eight of them entered my house. They yelled, “Give us your money or we’ll kill you. It’s you who took care of the militias.” They took 50,000 CFA (US $115), my mattress, my tank of gas—everything of value. The guys were big, these were FRCI military men with clean uniforms. A leader among them said, “You the Bété, the Guéré, the Attié, it’s you who made this war. Where are the youth [males], we’re going to kill them all.” They went door to door and pillaged all of value. They stayed for hours. When the goods started piling up, they forced me to load their cars—televisions, refrigerators… I’d have a big can of cooking gas on my head and another in my hand…. I loaded up a pickup truck, a sedan, another sedan—all stuffed with everyone’s valuables. They left nothing. As I was making my seventh trip, their leader, a large man, grabbed me and pulled me into where one of my neighbors slept…. He threw me on a mattress and told me to open my legs. I said, “Mister, please, not like this.” I begged him to let me go, but he struck me and told me to shut up. He forced himself on me, and he raped me. He kept me there, raping me, for more than an hour. He was violent the whole time, by the time he finished I was bleeding between my legs. The whole time, the other FRCI were pillaging. They knew what he was doing, they walked by. He was their leader though. I heard them call him Commander Téo. After he finished [raping] me, he had his Kalash [on him] and he tried to ram it into me. I closed my legs and it smashed into my thigh…. He laughed and walked out of the room. As I finished loading their vehicles after I was abused, they were still searching house to house. Several houses down, they found young men hiding. As I was going back and forth to their cars, I saw the men had been stripped and made to lie down on my street. I counted them, they were 18. A few of the FRCI stayed with them, yelling at them about being militiamen—they weren’t militiamen, just neighborhood youth. All the militiamen had fled…. The soldiers talked about what to do with the prisoners. One said, “We didn’t come to waste time, we came to kill” and another agreed, “We can’t lose time, we don’t have space to take them, let’s finish the job and go.” Then they opened fire—the youth were lying down on the ground, naked except for underwear. They fired back and forth across them, killing them all right there. Then they drove off…. I couldn’t stay there anymore. As I was leaving Koweit, all around there were bodies. I saw dozens…. I came across an old man and asked if I could clean myself in his house. Soon after, another group of FRCI came to his house. One said, “Hand over your money or you’re dead.” I said, “They’ve just taken everything I have. I have nothing left to give you.” He slapped me but let me go. The old man handed over his money, and that group pillaged his house.[231]

Human Rights Watch documented six more killings in Koweit by the Republican Forces on the same day. A witness described five men being stripped, lined up, and machine gunned by a soldier. Four victims died instantly; the fifth, shot in the thigh, pretended to be dead and later crawled to a nearby house. The witness, a friend who lived nearby, went to him, and the man asked for water. As the witness went for water, he heard several gunshots. He found his friend dead—with a gunshot to the arm that had left bone fragments on the ground and another to the chest that had exited through the victim’s back.[232]

The killings began immediately after the Republican Forces took control of the neighborhood. On May 3, a witness watched as soldiers executed a 63-year-old man at point-blank range after accusing him of renting a room to a pro-Gbagbo militiaman.[233] One man described his brother’s killing:

They searched house by house on the day the FRCI were trying to take the Marine Base [May 4 and 5]. They arrived in 4x4s, pickup trucks, Kias, many had “FRCI” written on the side. There were dozens of soldiers. They thought all of us, the Bété, Guéré, or Goro youth, were militiamen. They seized three of us from the house I was hiding in, myself and two of my brothers. They took my youngest brother, who is 21, and demanded his ethnic group. He said he was Bété. Two of them grabbed his legs, another two held his arms behind him, and a fifth one held his head. Then a guy pulled out a knife, said his mystical prayer, and slit my brother’s throat. He was screaming. I saw his legs shaking after they’d slit his throat, the blood streaming down his body. It was worse than you’d kill an animal. I couldn’t turn away. It was my brother. As they were doing it, they said that they had to eliminate all of the Patriots that had caused country’s problems. Then they turned and asked my ethnic group. I said Dioula, because I can speak Dioula. They knew I wasn’t, but it was enough to not kill me. My other brother was scared; he knew he was next, so he started to run. One of them fired his Kalash; he fell down dead immediately. They then came back to me and said I was in a militia. They beat me with their guns, with their fists. They kept demanding that I say that I was in a militia, that they’d only stop if I said so. Eventually I relented and said I was. They loaded me up in a cargo truck and took me to the 16th precinct (police station)….[234]

Another witness described seeing the Republican Forces slit the throat of a youth in front of his father after finding a Kalashnikov and grenade in his bedroom during a 4 a.m. house-to-house search. The witness was stripped and forced to hand over his laptop computer, cell phones, and money.[235] Human Rights Watch documented similar pillaging of scores of houses in Koweit. The witness, like many others interviewed by Human Rights Watch, wanted to flee Abidjan to his family village, but had no money for transportation since the Republican Forces had taken everything.

One member of the Republican Forces in Yopougon told Human Rights Watch that men under the control of Ousmane Coulibaly—a former Forces Nouvelles zone commander in Odienné—were in charge of the offensive and the “clean-up” operation in Yopougon Koweit.[236] Several Ivorian journalists and sources close to the Forces Nouvelles also identified Coulibaly as the commander in charge of operations in that area (see Pattern of Abuse Text Box, above, for more information on Coulibaly).[237]


A Republican Forces commander told Human Rights Watch that, after heavy fighting from April 12 to 19, his forces consolidated control of Yaosseh around April 20.[238] After taking the area, many of the soldiers based themselves in the local police station—the 16th precinct—which had formerly housed pro-Gbagbo militiamen. Several days later, the Republican Forces began search operations in Yaosseh, where many of the area’s militiamen had previously lived. Eleven witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described how, between April 25 and 26, the soldiers killed at least 30 unarmed men, mostly youth from pro-Gbagbo ethnic groups. Most witnesses said the majority of victims had not been active militia members, who fled around April 19.

A 16-year-old boy saw his 25-year-old cousin shot and killed by soldiers as the two sat outside a health center at 2 p.m. on April 25. The witness was spared because of a serious medical condition which the soldiers said made clear he had never been a militiaman.[239] A 42-year-old woman saw Republican Forces kill her younger brother along with several others that same night:

They got to Yaosseh around 1 or 2 p.m.; there was shooting everywhere. It lasted for a couple hours, and then there was calm. When it picked up a second time, I decided to leave. The whole neighborhood was fleeing. As I passed by the [Young Patriots assembly point], there were lots of bodies outside. I don’t know if they were killed in battle or executed…. We stayed away for several hours, but I had nowhere to sleep so I decided to go home. I was with my younger brother. I was ahead of him when I heard a gunshot. I turned around and he’d been hit in the leg, he’d fallen down. Then four FRCI came out and grabbed him. They were all in military uniform. One of them said, “Slit his throat.” And they did, right in front of me. I cried, and one of them said, “Lady, we have no business with you. It’s the militiamen we’re after.” I kept crying, saying that my brother was no militiaman. Then one of the others said, “You’re the women guarding the militiamen. Show us where the others are, or we’ll kill you,” and he slapped me and showed a knife still dripping with my brother’s blood. I said I don’t know any militia members, I’m just trying to go home, and the other soldier told him to leave me. I hid at a neighbor’s house. The 16th precinct where they were based is nearby. I saw them coming into the neighborhood that night, shooting. I saw them kill two more young men they’d caught that night. They shot them at point-blank range. I left the neighborhood the next morning…. Two days later, I went to see my house. It had been completely pillaged, nothing was left. That day, our neighborhood buried four more youth right in front of me. Another five bodies were strewn on the street. I still don’t know where my husband is…. His phone is off. I assume he, too, is dead.[240]

Another witness described how soldiers entered and opened fire into a neighborhood restaurant, killing eight males inside.[241] A 34-year-old woman witnessed three more executions on April 26, including her sister’s husband, following a Republican Forces clash with Liberian mercenaries:

When they entered, they said, “We’re only here for the boys.” They were all in military fatigues, scores of them. I could see FRCI written on some of the cars, pickups, and 4x4s they’d arrived in. They came from the 16th precinct nearby. I know lots of people who saw killings, but in front of me they killed three—two by gunshot at point-blank range and a third, my sister’s husband, by slitting his throat…. As they were killing, they said, “You who killed our relatives, we’re going to kill you also.” But it wasn’t our boys who are still there that did the killing. All of those guys have left, they fled….[242]

As in Koweit, houses in Yaosseh were systematically pillaged, according to residents who witnessed the pillaging and who returned to find their houses emptied of all valuables.

Witnesses described a few instances in which senior officers intervened to stop extrajudicial killings, including a case in the Gesco neighborhood of Yopougon in late April. After one soldier appeared ready to execute a youth he had detained for being from an ethnic group believed to support Gbagbo—“because all Guéré, Bété, and Goro must be eliminated”—a higher-ranking soldier intervened and told them to leave the youth if they had no evidence they were militiamen.[243] More often, however, soldiers who opposed executing civilians were unable to convince fellow soldiers who were intent on inflicting collective punishment. A 38-year-old woman described what happened on April 26:

My neighbor, a medicine vendor, was killed in front of me. They trapped him in his house and pulled him into the street. They argued over whether they should kill him, and one of the FRCI was against killing him. He said the guy had nothing to do with the fighting; there was no reason to kill him. But his comrade shot him, first in both arms and then in the head.[244]

Extrajudicial Executions of Detainees

Human Rights Watch further documented the extrajudicial execution of 54 detainees by the Republican Forces at three separate detention sites in Yopougon—the 16th and 37th precinct police stations and the GESCO oil and gas company building—as well as in Koumassi and Port Bouët neighborhoods. Some of those captured had been identified by local residents as pro-Gbagbo militiamen who had committed crimes against pro-Ouattara communities, but the soldiers did not appear to have any information in most cases that linked those executed to any crime.

A member of the Republican Forces under the command of Chérif Ousmane described the execution in early May of 29 detainees outside the GESCO building:

It shocked me when we executed 29 people that we’d arrested during the search of the neighborhood Millionaire [Yopougon]. That day, Commander Chérif was really angry because he had lost six men during combat with militias in Abobo-Doumé [the Yopougon neighborhood near the Marine Base]. The head of our unit asked Chérif by phone what we were to do with the prisoners, and the order came to us, with Chérif directly mentioned, “You haven’t arrested anyone, I don’t want to see a single prisoner.” We brought them to GESCO and executed them several meters away on the roadside. We killed some five at a time, some four at a time, after lining them up. We didn’t even put blindfolds over their eyes, they watched it all. They cried and begged us to let them live, saying they had nothing to do with the militias. Some were killed by machine gunning across them; others were killed by automatic pistols at point-blank range. They were all youth, in their 30s, and in civilian dress. I promise you that no one can say what crime these men committed. They were arrested simply because they had an appearance that showed them as suspects of either being militiamen or those that tell the militia about our movements. I wasn’t happy about [being part of this], but I was only executing orders…. The military heads told us after to never tell this story and that all civilian deaths would be identified with the militias…. I killed men before in Yopougon, but it was men armed and shooting at us. When one fires on unarmed men begging for their life, it’s difficult to forget. In Yopougon, we speak often of “disappeared”; these are, primarily, executions like those that I’ve described. The FRCI arrested a lot of militiamen and executed them. We’ve also dug mass graves to bury certain bodies at night…. There have been too many civilian and military deaths in Yopougon.[245]

Two former detainees in the 16th precinct police station similarly described the execution of at least four young men during the first night of their detention, around May 5.[246] A 25-year-old who was picked up after fleeing the combat in Koweit said:

As we were coming out of the bush onto the main road, there were five FRCI waiting. One of them had an RPG that he pointed at us, and he told us not to move, to lay down immediately. We all lay down. This was around 2 or 3 p.m. They forced us to walk to the 16th precinct. A few had on FRCI t-shirts with military pants; others were in full military uniform. At the station, Koné, an FRCI soldier, was the person you met upon arrival. He asked each person whether he was a militiaman. We were surrounded by people with guns. As we responded, they inspected our hands and elbows, saying they could tell if you’d ever picked up a weapon. I said no, and I guess my answer satisfied them. Four others, though, were executed in front of us that night. They said their fingers were calloused, so they were militiamen. There was one guy that did the executions. He put on a balaclava and shot them at point-blank range, it was done one-by-one in front of everyone. The people were begging for forgiveness, saying they weren’t in a militia, but the guy shot them anyway … a bullet each time in the person’s chest. They told us to move the bodies outside by the bridge, then Koné poured gas on them and set them on fire. I was there for a week. They didn’t kill anyone after the first day.[247]

On May 15, a Human Rights Watch researcher saw a burning body less than 30 meters from the 16th precinct, still controlled by the FRCI, and was told by numerous witnesses at the scene that it was a pro-Gbagbo militiaman who had been caught and killed. The following day, two people who participated in the capture and witnessed the execution described the events.[248] The account describes a relationship between the FRCI and local pro-Ouattara youth that Human Rights Watch observed and that was repeatedly described by witnesses. One witness said:

The guy that you saw burning was one of the militiamen involved in burning alive two people on February 25. Yesterday, we spotted him walking in Yaosseh. When he saw us, he ran. We chased and caught him around 9 a.m., then handed him to a group of FRCI from the 16th who were on patrol…. We went with them to the station, and the FRCI did their work. They executed him. When we first arrived, I said that I knew he was in a militia, that he had taken part in burning alive two of our comrades…. The FRCI asked him if this was true, and he denied it. So they tortured and beat him, asking again and again whether he had raised a gun during the crisis, whether he had killed. Eventually he said it was true. They kept beating him and asking for him to give the phone number of his accomplices. Eventually he did. The FRCI guys called another militiaman and tried to set a trap. But the guy never came. The militiaman begged for forgiveness after they’d finished torturing him but an FRCI guy said, “Those that kill, those that burn, they can’t live.” Then the FRCI finished their work, they did justice, executed him with two shots. We were there for all of it. After he was killed, his body was set on fire across the street. Since the end of April, after the FRCI liberated the area, I’ve been involved in the capture of five militiamen. Two at one time, then one three different times. The FRCI executed them all. Two were thrown over the bridge, one body was left in the neighborhood, and the other two were killed in the 16th precinct…. Some of the militiamen are coming back, testing whether they can live here. But we haven’t forgotten what they did. If you’re [a Gbagbo supporter] that never picked up a gun, you can live here. But those who picked up guns, they will pay if they return.[249]

A Human Rights Watch researcher presented evidence about summary executions around the 16th precinct to Commissioner Lezou—a member of the Republican Forces then in charge of the precinct. Lezou adamantly denied that executions took place, saying that any bodies found on the streets were from the fierce combat between April 14 and 18. He also denied that a body was burned across the street from the precinct on May 15, even though the Human Rights Watch researcher said he had seen it himself.[250]

Human Rights Watch also documented five extrajudicial executions between May 12 and 19 of people detained in Yopougon’s 37th precinct. Victims were taken out of the station at night over two days and executed on grounds nearby, said several detainees and a neighborhood resident.[251]

Among those executed were several neighborhood-level leaders from pro-Gbagbo militia groups, including well-known Young Patriot leaders “Andy” and “Constant” in Koweit between May 5 and 6. A witness to Constant’s death described how relatives of local people killed by Constant and his militia described crimes he was involved in to the Republican Forces, after which four soldiers killed him.[252] A witness said that, before the soldiers executed Constant, he showed them a cache of arms in his house.[253] Two witnesses said they saw Chérif Ousmane in a convoy of six 4x4s that disposed of Andy’s body on May 6.[254] A witness who helped move the body said that it had been mutilated, with numerous knife and bullet wounds, likely indicating he had been tortured.[255]

While the killings were not on the same scale as in Yopougon, Human Rights Watch also documented extrajudicial executions in Koumassi and Port Bouët between April 13 and April 15, just after the Republican Forces occupied those areas. Several people executed were militiamen allegedly implicated in dozens of killings and, according to residents, in possession of large caches of arms. As in Yopougon, neighborhood youth played a role in identifying, denouncing, and trapping the alleged militiamen, before bringing them to the Republican Forces, in the words of one such youth, “to do their work.”[256]

Torture, Inhumane Treatment in Detention

Human Rights Watch documented dozens of cases of torture and inhumane treatment of detainees by the Republican Forces. During and after the military offensive in Abidjan, hundreds of youth from pro-Gbagbo ethnic groups were arrested and detained—often at abandoned police stations and military bases as well as in makeshift detention facilities like gas stations and the GESCO complex. Almost every former detainee interviewed by Human Rights Watch described being routinely beaten, most often with some combination of guns, belts, clubs, fists, and boots, as Republican Forces soldiers ordered them to reveal the location of weapons or militia leaders.

Most were detained simply because of their age, ethnic group, and neighborhood residence. A university student in Port Bouët described being arrested, detained, and beaten on April 21 because he had lived at one of the neighborhood’s university housing complexes—sites long associated with the pro-Gbagbo student group, FESCI:

I lived in the university housing because I’m a student from out of town, without family in Abidjan. I was never among FESCI. The Republican Forces arrested me and took me in a cargo truck from Port Bouët’s 2nd precinct. There were 10 of them, two of us students. Four of them beat me repeatedly over three hours, and one took out a knife and cut down my shoulder and back [wound seen by Human Rights Watch]. As they beat me, they kept demanding where the guns were. I told them I’d never taken part in FESCI, but they didn’t believe me. They threatened to kill me several times…. It was only when someone else from the community came and said I wasn’t part of FESCI that they relented. The commander told me to forget what happened … and gave me back my two cell phones. We’re still threatened though, just because we’re students.[257]

In several cases, the Republican Forces’ treatment clearly reached the level of torture, defined under the Convention Against Torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” by a state actor for purposes including obtaining information or punishing the person for an act committed or suspected of being committed.[258] A 20-year-old who was detained for one week in the 37th police precinct in Abobo-Doumé described:

Each day the FRCI pulled us out of the small cell to beat us with their Kalashes. Generally it was two of them; they’d strike you over and over with either their guns or their boots. It would last about five, ten minutes, then they’d leave and come back a couple hours later to do it again. As they hit me they’d say, “Are you going to answer our questions truthfully next time? Are you going to give us information?” Every time I told them that I’d never raised a weapon, but the beatings continued. On the second day, they put a knife into a fire until it was scorching hot.Then they placed it on my left shoulder, making a cut as well. They demanded, “Are you militia? Where are the arms that have been hidden?” It was the burning that hurt more than the cut—it was the worst pain I’ve ever felt [wounds, including charred, discolored skin and a long scar on the victim’s shoulder, seen by Human Rights Watch].[259]

Another detainee described how the Republican Forces forcibly pulled out several of his teeth during questioning after cornering him on a small road in Yopougon Wassakara in mid-April:

As I was walking to work [as a security guard], the FRCI ambushed me…. They were all in uniforms and wore military boots. They pulled me into an alleyway near Pharmacy Keneya saying that I was a Gbagbo militiaman. I said, “No, no, I’m just going to my job. I’m a guard.” They said, “No, you’re militia.” … They beat me with their Kalashes until I was bleeding from my head. I’m still not right in the head, I constantly have headaches. Then they held me down, two grabbed me by my shoulders, two by my legs, and one held open my mouth. One of their guys had pliers, and he ripped out one of my teeth up top. Then he ripped out a second one, but it broke and only part of it came out. They kept demanding, “Where are the weapons you’ve hidden?” The pain was so much, I couldn’t even respond. So they kept going…. After the first couple, they stopped even asking questions. They yelled, “We’re going to kill all of you militiamen that caused these problems. You’re one of Gbagbo’s Patriots, we’re going to kill you all.” … I still can’t really eat from all the pain. At night [a month later], blood still comes into my mouth from these wounds.[260]

[138] For a discussion of the role of Liberian mercenaries in the first Ivorian conflict, see Human Rights Watch, Youth, Poverty and Blood; Human Rights Watch, Trapped Between Two Wars; and International Crisis Group, Côte d’Ivoire: “The War is Not Yet Over,” pp. 21-27.

[139] Human Rights Watch interviews with leaders of ex-combatant group, Monrovia, Liberia, March 28, 2011; with 32-year-old mercenary recruit, Toe Town, Liberia, April 1, 2011; and with 29-year-old mercenary recruit, Toe Town, Liberia, April 1, 2011. See also Tamasin Ford and Rachel Stevenson, “Ivory Coast rebels have killed hundreds, say observers,” the Guardian (UK), April 9, 2011; Emily Schmall and Mae Azango, “Liberian mercenaries detail their rampages in western Ivory Coast,” Christian Science Monitor, April 10, 2011.

[140] A rural land law enacted in 1998 required someone to be an Ivorian citizen in order to own land, stripping the right from immigrants and, at times, northern Ivorians who could not establish their citizenship to the government’s demands. International Crisis Group, Côte d’Ivoire: “The War is Not Yet Over, ” p. 7. For a detailed discussion of the 1998 law and land rights problems more generally, see Norwegian Refugee Council, Whose land is this?: Land disputes and forced displacement in the western forest area of Côte d’Ivoire, October 2009.

[141]Human Rights Watch phone interview with 36-year-old witness, Man, March 30, 2011.

[142]Human Rights Watch phone interview with 18-year-old witness, Man, March 29, 2011.

[143]Human Rights Watch interview with 28-year-old witness, Man, March 29, 2011.

[144]Human Rights Watch phone interview with 34-year-old witness, Man, March 30, 2011.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with 28-year-old Ivorian refugee, Janzon, Liberia, April 2, 2011.

[146] Human Rights Watch phone interview with 42-year-old witness in Bloléquin, April 3, 2011.

[147] Human Rights Watch phone interviews with 35-year-old Burkinabé immigrant in Guiglo, April 3, 2011; and with 31-year-old Nigerien immigrant in Guiglo, April 4, 2011.

[148] Human Rights Watch phone interview with 32-year-old Malian immigrant in Guiglo, April 3, 2011.

[149]Human Rights Watch phone interview with Bloléquin resident and witness, March 16, 2011.

[150] Human Rights Watch interviews with 28-year-old Ivorian refugee, Janzon, Liberia, April 2, 2011; with 24-year-old Ivorian refugee, Garley Town, Liberia, April 4, 2011; with 31-year-old refugee, Garley Town, Liberia, April 4, 2011; by phone with 28-year-old witness in Bédi-Goazon, Man, March 29, 2011.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with 28-year-old Ivorian refugee, Janzon, Liberia, April 2, 2011. Ziglo is the home of Gbagbo ally and former director general of the Abidjan port Marcel Gossio, who, residents from western Côte d’Ivoire interviewed by Human Watch Rights said, had financially supported the mercenaries.The international commission of inquiry likewise identified Gossio as funding pro-Gbagbo militia groups. Rapport de la Commission d’enquête internationale indépendante sur la Côte d’Ivoire [hereafter “2011 COI report”], U.N. Doc. A/HRC/17/48, June 7, 2011, para. 25.

[152] Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press, Police hold top Liberia mercenary Bob Marley accused in Ivory Coast massacres, June 14, 2011.

[153] Ibid.

[154] Human Rights Watch phone interview with 39-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 6, 2011; Human Rights Watch interview with 47-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011.

[155] Human Rights Watch interviews with 47-year-old injured by shelling, July 30, 2011; and with 49-year-old injured by shelling, July 30, 2011.

[156] Human Rights Watch interviews with 50-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011; with 42-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011; and with 47-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with 50-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011.

[158] Human Rights Watch phone interview with 39-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 5, 2011; Human Rights Watch interviews with 64-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011; with 42-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011; and with 47-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011.

[159] Associated Press, “UN Condemns Mortar Attack On Ivory Coast Market,” March 18, 2011; “Ivory Coast crisis: Deadly shelling in Abidjan,” BBC News, March 17, 2011.

[160] Human Rights Watch interviews with 42-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 17, 2011; with 64-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011; and with 51-year-old witness, Abidjan, July 30, 2011.

[161] 2011 COI Report, para. 53.

[162] UN Security Council Resolution 1975, March 30, 2011, U.N. Doc. SC/10215, para 6.

[163] UN Security Council Report, Update Report No. 3: Côte d’Ivoire, April 20, 2011; AFP, “French and U.N. forces attack Laurent Gbagbo’s bases after urgent request from Ban Ki-moon,” April 4, 2011; AFP, “Gbagbo cornered as battles rage in Ivory Coast city of Abidjan,” April 5, 2011.

[164] Reuters, “UN, French attack Gbagbo heavy weapons in I. Coast,” April 11, 2011; Marco Chown Oved, Associated Press, “UN, French fire on Gbagbo residence in Ivory Coast,” April 11, 2011.

[165] Marco Chown Oved, Associated Press, “More of Gbagbo’s arsenal found,” April 14, 2011.

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with 52-year-old witness to militia killings, Abidjan, March 24, 2011.

[167] Human Rights Watch phone interview with witness to killings, Abidjan, March 30, 2011.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with victim and witness to two killings, Abidjan, March 24, 2011.

[169] Human Rights Watch phone interview with witness to killing, Abidjan, March 30, 2011.

[170] Human Rights Watch phone interview with 40-year-old witness to six killings, Abidjan, March 30, 2011.

[171] Human Rights Watch interviews with 52-year-old who identified mass grave of 10 killed by militia near Bloco Beach Hotel, which served as a militia base, Abidjan, May 17, 2011; with neighborhood leader of the Burkinabé community, Abidjan, May 17, 2011; with 26-year-old witness to two militia killings, Abidjan, May 14, 2011; and with 34-year-old witness to two killings, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[172] Human Rights Watch interview with 29-year-old Port Bouët resident, Abidjan, May 17, 2011.

[173] Human Rights Watch interview with 33-year-old Koumassi resident, Abidjan, May 17, 2011.

[174]Human Rights Watch interview with 24-year-old Koumassi resident, Abidjan, May 17, 2011.

[175] Human Rights Watch interviews with 34-year-old who was forced by the militia to bury victims, Abidjan, May 15, 2011; and with 49-year-old who participated in burial of 18 in one grave, Abidjan, May 15, 2011.

[176] Human Rights Watch interview with 26-year-old, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[177] Human Rights Watch interview with 65-year-old father of victims, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[178] Human Rights Watch interviews with 25-year-old resident and participant in burial, May 14, 2011; and with 58-year-old resident and participant in burial, May 14, 2011.

[179] Human Rights Watch interview with 30-year-old who participated in burials, Abidjan, May 14, 2011; and with 32-year old who participated in burials, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[180] Human Rights Watch interview with 23-year-old rape victim, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[181] Human Rights Watch interview with 38-year-old witness and brother to deceased, May 20, 2011.

[182] Human Rights Watch interviews with 27-year-old Locodjoro resident who fled the attack, May 23, 2011; with 42-year-old brother of Malian who was executed, May 24, 2011; and with 31-year-old witness to the attack, May 24, 2011.

[183] Human Rights Watch interviews with 46-year-old Yopougon resident, Abidjan, May 24, 2011; with 45-year-old Yopougon resident, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[184] Human Rights Watch interviews with 46-year-old Yopougon resident, Abidjan, May 24, 2011; and with 27-year-old Yopougon resident, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[185] Human Rights Watch interviews with 46-year-old Yopougon resident, Abidjan, May 24, 2011; and with 38-year-old Yopougon resident.

[186] Reuters, “Ivory Coast’s Ouattara Says Rebels are Legitimate Army,” March 18, 2011.

[187] Although they were not named the “Republican Forces” until March 17, this report will refer to them as such for consistency in describing the military offensive. The soldiers that were the “Forces Nouvelles” that took control of Zouan-Hounien on February 25 were primarily the same as those that took Doké, Bloléquin, and other towns once reconstituted as the “Republican Forces.”

[188] Rahoul Sainfort, “Toulepleu, Zouan Hounien, Bin Houyé - Soro dans les ruines de la région Ouest,” Le Patriote, March 23, 2011.

[189] Human Rights Watch interviews with 26-year-old Ivorian refugee in Liberia from Bloléquin, Janzon, Liberia, April 4, 2011; and by phone interview with 34-year-old in Bloléquin, April 5, 2011; Kindo Ousseny, “Portrait: Le capitaine Eddie Medi / L’officier qui a chassé les mercenaires de Gbagbo l’Ouest,” Nord-Sud, March 17, 2011.

[190] 2011 COI Report, para. 65.

[191] In interviews, victims and witnesses used a variety of terms to describe Ouattara’s regular armed forces, including “rebels,” Forces Nouvelles (or FN), FAFN (for Forces Armées des Forces Nouvelles), and Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire or FRCI).

[192] Human Rights Watch interview with 57-year-old Ivorian refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, March 31, 2011.

[193] Human Rights Watch interview with 23-year-old Ivorian refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, April 1, 2011.

[194] Human Rights Watch interview with 25-year-old Ivorian refugee, Zleh Town, Liberia, March 31, 2011.

[195] Human Rights Watch interviews with 22-year-old Ivorian refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, April 1, 2011; with 31-year-old Ivorian refugee, Janszon, Liberia, April 2, 2011; with 62-year-old Ivorian refugee, Zwedru, April 3, 2011; and with 58-year-old Ivorian refugee, Garley Town, April 3, 2011.

[196] Human Rights Watch interview with 47-year-old Ivorian refugee, Janzon, Liberia, April 2, 2011.

[197]Human Rights Watch interviews with 52-year-old Ivorian refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, March 31, 2011; with 58-year-old Ivorian refugee, Bah Town, Liberia, March 31, 2011; with 31-year-old Ivorian refugee, Zleh Town, April 1, 2011; and with 46-year-old refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, March 31, 2011.

[198] Human Rights Watch interview with 21-year-old Ivorian refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, April 1, 2011.

[199] Human Rights Watch interview with 67-year-old Ivorian refugee, Zwedru, Liberia, April 3, 2011.

[200] Human Rights Watch interview with 84-year-old Ivorian refugee, Tuzohn, Liberia, April 4, 2011.

[201] Human Rights Watch interview with 84-year-old Ivorian refugee, Tuzohn, Liberia, April 4, 2011.

[202] Human Rights Watch interview with 31-year-old Ivorian refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, April 1, 2011.

[203] Human Rights Watch interview with 25-year-old Ivorian refugee, Toe Town, Liberia, April 1, 2011.

[204] Human Rights Watch interview with 32-year-old Ivorian refugee, Janzon, Liberia, April 2, 2011.

[205]Human Rights Watch interviews with 26-year-old Ivorian refugee in Liberia from Bloléquin, Janzon, Liberia, April 4, 2011; and by phone interview with 34-year-old in Bloléquin, April 5, 2011; Kindo Ousseny, “Portrait: Le capitaine Eddie Medi / L’officier qui a chassé les mercenaires de Gbagbo l’Ouest,” Nord-Sud, March 17, 2011.

[206]Kindo Ousseny, “Portrait: Le capitaine Eddie Medi,” Nord-Sud, March 17, 2011; Après Toulepleu, Bloléquin : Les FRCI avancent..., La voix du golf, March 22, 2011, (accessedAugust 27, 2011).

[207] Kindo Ousseny, “Portrait: Le capitaine Eddie Medi,” Nord-Sud, March 17, 2011.

[208] Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press, “War over but massacres continue in Ivory Coast,”July 23, 2011.

[209] Kindo Ousseny, “Portrait: Le capitaine Eddie Medi,” Nord-Sud, March 17, 2011.

[210] Human Rights Watch, Trapped Between Two Wars, p. 40.

[211] Human Rights Watch, Trapped Between Two Wars, p. 41. The 2003 United States Department of State report on human rights in Côte d’Ivoire also mentions reports of killings by rebel groups, including the MJP, in Bangolo in May 2003, as well as the discovery of mass graves in Bangolo in September. The report also notes that in Zérégbo and Bahably, two villages in the Bangolo department, there were four water wells found with human remains – citing “early reports [that] indicated that western rebel groups who captured the area killed the persons in the mass graves and wells between December 2002 and January 2003.” United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Côte d’Ivoire, 2003,” February 25, 2004. All of these crimes were during a time at which, according to Médi’s chief of staff and Médi himself, Médi was a commander there.

[212] International Crisis Group, Côte d’Ivoire: “The War is Not Yet Over,” p. 26, footnote 128.

[213] Kindo Ousseny, “Portrait: Le capitaine Eddie Medi,” Nord-Sud, March 17, 2011.

[214] Sylvain Doua Gouly, “Cote d’Ivoire: Capitaine Eddy Medy (COMJP Bangolo): ‘La confiance renaît entre la population et nous,’” Fratérnité-Matin, June 8, 2004.

[215] United States Department of State, “2009 Human Rights Report, Côte d’Ivoire,” March 11, 2010.

[216] International Crisis Group, Côte d’Ivoire: “The War is Not Yet Over,” pp. 18-21, 51.

[217] Human Rights Watch, Trapped Between Two Wars, pp. 26-28 (finding that after retaking Man from Gbagbo forces on December 19, 2002, forces including Ousmane Coulibaly’s MJP “specifically targeted those civilians, many of them self-defense committee members, who had collaborated with the government forces in targeting civilians” and also took women as “wives” in subjecting them to repeated sexual violence).

[218] International Crisis Group, Côte d’Ivoire: “The War is Not Yet Over, pp. 25-26. ICG notes that, after repeated attacks on civilians by their Liberian mercenary allies, Coulibaly was placed in charge of “clean-up” between February and April 2003. This involved pushing the Liberian mercenaries toward the border. Ibid., p. 24. A United States Department of State report from 2004 also mentioned Coulibaly in this role, stating: “On May 8, Ousmane Coulibaly, MJP military commander in Man, told the media that 140 Liberians were being detained ‘for their own protection.’” The report also notes, however, “In April, several sources reported that fighting between the western rebels, MPIGO, MJP, and their Liberian/Sierra Leonean allies resulted in execution of more than 50 Liberian mercenaries in the western region. A BBC reporter said he saw dead Liberian combatants with their hands tied and sometimes their heads and toes severed.” United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Côte d’Ivoire, 2003,” February 25, 2004.

[219] The UN Security Council never made public the report, but the report was leaked and is now widely available. Conclusion 28 identifies Man as one of many towns where both sides’ committed widespread or systematic attacks against civilian populations, including murders, rape, and torture, comprise crimes against humanity.

[220] Amnesty International, Côte d’Ivoire: Les Femmes, Victimes Oubliées du Conflit, January 2007 (“[W]omen were systematically attacked by both pro-government militias and armed opposition groups such as the MJP and the MPIGO…. [who] used sexual violence against women to terrorize the civilian population and extort money, reducing many women to sexual slavery.”); Amnesty International, Côte d’Ivoire: No Escape, June 24, 2003 (documenting atrocities by the MJP against Liberian refugees in the far west).

[221] See International Crisis Group, Côte d’Ivoire: “The War is Not Yet Over, pp. 24-26; United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Côte d’Ivoire, 2003,” February 25, 2004.

[222] 2011 COI Report, paras. 29, 64.

[223] Amnesty International, They looked at his identity card and shot him dead: Six Months of Post-Electoral Violence in Côte d’Ivoire, May 2011, pp. 37-42.

[224] FIDH, Côte d’Ivoire: Massacre in Duekoue and serious abuses against the civilian population all over the country, April 2, 2011.

[225] For a history of the Dozo, see Joseph Hellweg, Hunting the Ethical State: The Benkadi Movement of Côte d’Ivoire, 2011. For further discussion of May and June 2011 abuses by the Dozos and Republican Forces, often working together in the far west, see Amnesty International, We want to go home but we can’t”: Côte d’Ivoire’s continuing displacement and insecurity, July 28, 2011, pp. 18-25.

[226] Human Rights Watch phone interview with witness, Duékoué, April 2, 2011.

[227] Human Rights Watch phone interview with victim, Duékoué, April 3, 2011.

[228] Human Rights Watch phone interview with pastor, Duékoué, April 3, 2011.

[229] AFP, Côte d`Ivoire: 8 personnes tuées par les forces pro-Ouattara (ONU), June 23, 2011; Côte d’Ivoire: l’ONU dénonce la multiplication des violences des forces de Ouattara, Le Monde, July 9, 2011.

[230] AFP, “26 Ivory Coast executions in four weeks: UN,” August 11, 2011.

[231] Human Rights Watch interview with 34-year-old rape victim, Abidjan, May 20, 2011.

[232] Human Rights Watch interview with 46-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[233] Human Rights Watch interview with 53-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[234] Human Rights Watch interview with 25-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 20, 2011.

[235] Human Rights Watch interview with 46-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[236] Human Rights Watch interview with member of the Republican Forces, Abidjan, May 23, 2011.

[237] Human Rights Watch interviews, Abidjan, May and July, 2011. See also “Commandant Ousmane Coulibaly (Chef de la sécurité à Yopougon) : “L’ère des miliciens est révolue,” Le Patriote, June 9, 2011; “Ousmane Coulibaly : ‘Nous contrôlerons Yopougon dans 48 heures,’France 24, April 15, 2011.

[238] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander Lezou, Abidjan, May 25, 2011.

[239] Human Rights Watch interview with 25-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[240] Human Rights Watch interview with 42-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[241] Human Rights Watch interview with 31-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 22, 2011.

[242] Human Rights Watch interview with 34-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 20, 2011.

[243] Human Rights Watch interview with 26-year-old, Abidjan, May 20, 2011.

[244]Human Rights Watch interview with 38-year-old witness, Abidjan, May 22, 2011.

[245] Human Rights Watch interview with soldier in Chérif Ousmane’s Guépard unit, Abidjan, May 23, 2011.

[246] Human Rights Watch interviews with 25-year-old former detainee in the 16th precinct, Abidjan, May 20, 2011; and with 27-year-old former detainee in the 16th precinct, Abidjan, May 22, 2011.

[247] Human Rights Watch interview with 25-year-old former detainee in the 16th precinct, Abidjan, May 20, 2011.

[248] Human Rights Watch interviews with RHDP youth who captured alleged militiaman, Abidjan, May 16, 2011.

[249] Human Rights Watch interview with RHDP youth who captured alleged militiaman, Abidjan, May 16, 2011.

[250] Human Rights Watch interview with Commissioner Lezou, Abidjan, May 25, 2011.

[251] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee in the 37th precinct, Abidjan, May 20, 2011; with former detainee in the 37th precinct, Abidjan, May 22, 2011; and with neighbor who lived near the station, Abidjan, May 22, 2011.

[252] Human Rights Watch interview with 65-year-old male, Abidjan, May 14, 2011. Human Rights Watch documented six killings by Andy and Constant in early March that targeted pro-Ouattara groups, as well as a gruesome gang rape and killing of an 18-year-old woman. Human Rights Watch interview with witness to the killings and rape, Abidjan, May 24, 2011.

[253] Human Rights Watch interview with 65-year-old male, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[254] Human Rights Watch interviews with 57-year-old male, Abidjan, May 20, 2011; and with 45-year-old male, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[255] Human Rights Watch interview with 65-year-old male, Abidjan, May 14, 2011.

[256] Human Rights Watch interview with RHDP youth in Koumassi, Abidjan, May 17, 2011.

[257] Human Rights Watch interview with 24-year-old university student, Abidjan, May 15, 2011.

[258]Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture), G.A. res. 39/46, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (1984), entered into force June 26, 1987, acceded to by Côte d’Ivoire on December 18, 1995.

[259] Human Rights Watch interview with 20-year-old, Abidjan, May 22, 2011.

[260] Human Rights Watch interview with 29-year-old, Abidjan, May 22, 2011.