VI. THE DECEMBER PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
By the beginning of November, and following calls for calm by both FPI and RDR leaders, political tension had largely been diffused. Police and gendarmes released hundreds of detainees from bases throughout Abidjan. Nevertheless, throughout November, scores of family members continued to search hospitals, morgues, and detention facilities for their missing relatives.
The December parliamentary election period was characterized by a further breakdown in the rule of law. During this period, state agents and their political supporters, encouraged by the impunity they had enjoyed in October, perpetrated similar and in some cases worse acts of violence. While the December wave of violence was characterized by fewer killings, there were more cases of detention, sexual violence, and religious persecution. At least one RDR official was killed and scores more, including several high-level representatives, were imprisoned. Also, by December, there was a consolidation in the relationship between the security forces and the youth wing of Gbagbo's party, the FPI, with the latter enjoying complete immunity from arrest even after committing atrocities in the presence of gendarmes and police.
Human Rights Watch documented forty-two deaths during the December violence, considerably higher than the official estimate of the Ivorian government - twenty deaths - or of the RDR, who believed some thirty of their supporters had died. 63
As Ouattara and the RDR prepared to participate in the December 10, 2000 parliamentary elections, a December 1, 2000, Supreme Court decision again barred Ouattara from standing, again because of questions about his citizenship.64 The RDR secretary-general, Henriette Diabaty, condemned the ruling: "The decision is illegal and completely arbitrary. We have been patient...we cannot accept such a decision and we affirm that the party's chairman cannot be excluded from his country's political process."65
In response to their leader's exclusion, the RDR withdrew their candidates from the election and called for a demonstration on December 4, 2000. The government reacted by declaring the demonstration illegal and Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou announced a ban on all anti-election protests from December 5 through December 11, 2000.66
On December 3, 2000, after holding discussions with the government, the RDR agreed to call off its planned march and replace it with a public meeting to be held the next day, at the Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in the city center.67
From the early morning hours of December 4, 2000, thousands of RDR supporters gathered in their neighborhoods. Given the potential for violence, public transportation was almost entirely unavailable, leaving demonstrators no other alternative but to walk. As the demonstrators left their neighborhoods, they were met by police and gendarmes who had deployed in and around major roads and highways. The motive of the deployment was apparently to stop the RDR supporters from reaching the stadium.
An RDR activist explained:68
On December 4, there were no taxis, no buses, so the only way to go to the meeting at the stadium was to walk. At around 9:00 am in Williamsville, we saw that the gendarmes, armed with guns and pistols, had formed a line across the road so as to prevent us from proceeding. As we got closer they opened fire and we all started running. I didn't see anyone dead but a colleague was hit in the face with a bullet. We weren't armed with anything.
I was captured by the gendarmes as we were running away, and later taken to Agban camp where I was severely beaten, to the point of needing hospitalization. The day after my capture, the gendarmes forced me to walk on my knees to a room where I gave a statement about our participation in the march.
The RDR saw the efforts by the security forces as a betrayal by the government who had the previous day granted permission to hold a meeting. Some of the demonstrators were armed with sticks, knives, machetes, and a few with hunting rifles; others had taken to the streets to set up burning barricades. Little effort was made by the security forces to distinguish between or isolate these armed elements from nonviolent demonstrators. On several occasions, most notably in the Abobo, Koumassi, and Yopougon neighborhoods, police and gendarmes indiscriminately opened fire into large crowds of people. Several people were killed as a result.
A twenty-six-year-old man marching with hundreds of other RDR supporters from Koumassi to the Houphouët-Boigny Stadium described what happened when police opened fire. At least two people died in the incident:69
My brother T. died in my arms after being shot during the demonstration on Monday December 4. We were participating in the RDR march going to the stadium. We left our place in Koumassi at around 6:30 a.m. and started walking to eventually hook up with our colleagues coming from villages near the airport. As we approached the local gendarme base, they [the gendarmes] started throwing tear gas at us. By this time there were around 400 of us. When the gendarmes ran out of tear gas we continued on until we turned onto Blvd 7 de Septembre, where we hoped to meet the other RDR supporters.
Then at around 8:45 a.m., just near the roundabout close to the 6th District Police headquarters, they opened fire on us. I saw several of them shooting through the fence with a pistol. Four demonstrators were wounded at that moment. But many of us wanted to continue so we carried on nearly until we reached the main boulevard. There we ran into another group of policemen but this time we sent a small group to them to explain that we were just on our way for a meeting at the stadium.
They gave us permission to continue but as we were walking past them they just began firing at us. I saw about six officers in the vicinity and at least two actually shooting. There were two people killed during this shooting; my brother and one other. My brother didn't die instantly. He was saying, `but we did nothing and you shot on us.' Then he started to bleed from the mouth and nose, he lived for about an hour.
A thirty-one-year-old petty trader, also an RDR activist, described how gendarmes tried to block activists from marching from the populous suburb of Yopougon. One RDR protester was killed in the shooting:
On Monday, December 4, at around 8:00 a.m. we, the RDR militants, left Yopougon on our way to the meeting in the stadium. Then a truck of gendarmes tried to block the main road to stop us from participating in the meeting. I saw about fifteen of them taking up position, and then they just opened up on us with live bullets. I saw that one youth died on the spot. Many of us were wounded with bullets. We saw there were some FPI youths with the gendarmes as well. They just opened up firing on us with no warning.70
At least one opposition supporter, a treasury official working with the Treichville mayor's office, an ethnic Baoule, and member of the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), was murdered by an RDR mob as a large group of RDR supporters marched into the city center on the morning of December 4, 2000, to participate in the meeting at the stadium. According to witnesses he was brutalized and later had his throat slashed.71
Detention and Torture
After breaking up concentrations of RDR supporters on their way to the stadium in the morning, and to the national television station in the afternoon, police and gendarmes rounded up hundreds of demonstrators and detained them in several bases including the National Police Academy, Agban Gendarme Camp, National Gendarme Academy, Gendarme Camp of Koumassi, and the Gendarme Camp of Yopougon. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Abidjan, 814 people were arrested during the month of December violence.72 According to witnesses and victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch, several hundred more people were detained around the December parliamentary elections than during the October presidential elections.
Detainees were subjected to severe physical and psychological torture similar to reported treatment in October. Indeed, in many cases the treatment was worse. At least one RDR supporter died and scores more were wounded as a result of torture and ill-treatment. Hospital and clinic workers treated hundreds of victims for lacerations, broken bones, fractures, and burns sustained while in custody. In addition to the forms of torture used in October, police and gendarmes burned detainees with irons and scalding pot lids, scorched their testicles with cigarettes, and forced them to drink their own blood and eat excrement. As in October, the two most notorious places of detention both in terms of severity of treatment and numbers detained were the National Police Academy and the Agban Gendarme Camp. Many of the some thirty detainees held within the National Gendarme Academy were also severely tortured.
On December 6 and 7, 2000, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and international and local human rights groups including Amnesty International, and the Ivorian Movement for Human Rights (Mouvement Ivorien des Droits de l'Homme, MIDH), visited the National Police Academy, Agban Gendarme Camp, and other places of detention. Following the visits, conditions in detention improved considerably. There were few subsequent reports of abuse, and cadets and officers alike appeared to have received orders to desist from ill-treating the detainees. The ICRC treated the wounded and registered the names and phone numbers of detainees to notify their family members.73
A twenty-two-year-old driver's apprentice, arrested within his house in Yopougon, described physical torture during his ten-day detention within the National Police Academy. His back and arms were scarred with at least nine small burns and numerous deep welts:74
Arriving at the Police Academy they asked us to take off all our clothes. Then they took our IDs, mobile phones, jewelry, and made us walk through a formation of police-one on each side about a meter apart-who beat us severely with everything; batons, wood, chains, belts, electrical wire. The line was about thirty meters long and they told us to walk very slowly. Most of them seemed to be cadets. Then they made us walk on our knees; they told us to form groups of seven and race back and forth five times.
For three days we suffered all kinds of torture. The cadets would work on us in groups; each one doing whatever he felt like. After they tired or at the end of their shift another group would come and do whatever they wanted.
They screamed at all of us to lie down on our stomach, then beat us with burning branches; keeping it there a few moments to make sure it burned. There was one who put the top of a saucepan in the fire till it was scalding then put a belt around the top so as to be able to hold it. Then he walked around burning us.
They beat us with iron, wood, batons, and would then pour a liquid that burned terribly into the open wounds. I think this was tear gas mixed with water. While they did this they said things like, `you're the Dioula; you already control transport and trade and construction, and now you want more, you want to be president.'
We didn't eat or drink anything, not even water, on Monday or Tuesday. It wasn't until Wednesday morning, after the Red Cross and human rights people came, that we got something to eat, that the torture stopped, and things got a lot better.
Except on Thursday morning, after the beating had effectively stopped, a single gendarme came into the room and said sarcastically, `You people are really ok here. You should see how your comrades in the National Gendarme Academy are getting on. If you see them, you'll see how well we treat RDR people.' Then he took off his red belt, with that thick iron buckle, and started beating us. He went around like a mad man for thirty minutes until he'd broken into a sweat. The other police just stood by, laughing, not saying anything or trying to stop him.
As in October, foreigners, northerners, and Muslims were dragged out of their homes or stopped on the street and detained solely and explicitly on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, or religion. According to a December report by the Interior Ministry, over half of the 302 detainees being held in the National Police Academy were foreigners (including fifty-seven Guineans, forty-six Malians, and twenty-eight Burkinabés).75 Victims and witnesses described police and gendarmes breaking into the houses of foreigners and threatening to kill them if they didn't come out.
A forty-year-old Malian house painter was dragged out of his neighborhood on December 4, with at least ten others, during a morning police round-up operation in Williamsville. While held in the National Police Academy he was severely tortured, resulting in at least thirty open gashes and five deep, open sores and burns on his back, several of which required stitches. He recounted:76
On the morning of December 4, we'd heard there was going to be trouble so I decided to stay home from work. At around 8:00 a.m., I went outside to the public washing area and starting hearing the people running around and then saw six or seven policemen. They ordered me out and I tried to explain that I wasn't among the marchers, that I was a Malian and had nothing to do with politics. When I told them this they said, `Oh you're a Malian...you're the ones who send others to march in the streets while you remain at home.' They asked for my ID but they didn't even look at it.
Then they dragged me and another Malian as they moved through the neighborhood, compound by compound, looking for foreigners and Ivorian Dioulas. They threw a few tear gas bombs into houses of people who didn't want to open up. I didn't count how many they pulled out of their houses but I think there were about ten to fifteen.
Then we walked to the police station in Williamsville. About thirty others were brought throughout the rest of the day. It was when we got to the Police Academy that the true hell started. When we arrived they told us to take off our pants, get down and then march on our knees. Then about ten police cadets lined up on two sides and told us to walk as they whipped and beat us with batons, electrical wire, bamboo, and iron.
Once inside they forced us to lie down on our bellies and tortured us all night. They threw water on us, forced us to do sit-ups and other exercises, and beat us with truncheons, leather dog collars, wood, iron, bamboo and electrical cord. A few of them walked around with small rubber spray bottles with tear gas and water in it. They stopped in front of me, forced my eyes open wide and then sprayed it in. It was so painful-I couldn't see for fifteen minutes. Over the next few days they did this several times. I had deep gashes all over my back, some of them about an inch deep, and they also sprayed this substance into these wounds. There was one cadet who put the top of a saucepan in the fire to make it hot and then he walk around burning people with it. We were totally defenseless. How could we protect ourselves?
Hearing that the institute where he taught had come under attack, a forty-five-year-old chemistry teacher from a northern ethnic group ventured out and was soon after detained by gendarmes in Williamsville. The severe beating he received while held in the Abgan Gendarme Camp resulted in a skull fracture, one deep ten-inch gash on his back, and some forty smaller welts all over his body. He recounted:77
As I arrived at the intersection near the cemetery, a group of gendarmes drove up; some in a jeep others in a cargo. There were about fifteen in each group. Some of the RDR people started running away when they saw them, but I didn't; I didn't have anything to hide.
I insisted that I wasn't involved in the march but they arrested me anyway. At the entrance to Agban Camp, a few of the gendarmes at the gate said, `so you've brought us food to eat.' They told me to take off all my clothes, save my underwear. And then the beatings started. They beat me with their belts with the iron bit, with batons, and with rubber.
The worst beating happened on Tuesday. Every group of gendarmes had their own way of torturing us physically and psychologically. While lying down one of them put his boot on my head so as to immobilize me, and then hit me four or five times with the iron buckle of his belt. It caused a huge gash, and a fracture on my head. I lost consciousness for over two hours and bled heavily. The others thought I was dead. They also broke one of my fingers and whipped me continuously on my back. On Wednesday, at around 16:00, I beleive the gendarmes thought I was going to die so a few hours later they sent me to the hospital at Cocody. I couldn't really walk, I was so dizzy. In fact I'm still dizzy. I'm still not the same. They stole my glasses and my gold watch. Altogether I spent three days in Agban camp and was then in the hospital for over a week.
Despite police and gendarme efforts to stop the movement of RDR supporters, by noon thousands had managed to arrive at the Houphouët-Boigny Stadium. However, due to organizational and technical failure, the RDR meeting never took place. Witnesses said that, when RDR leaders were late in arriving and the sound system failed, several hundred frustrated protesters decided to march the two miles to the national television station, (Radio Télévision Ivorien, RTI) despite pleas from the leadership not to march. By doing so, they were in violation of the interior minister's ban. The march was headed up by some ten to fifteen Dozos, or traditional hunters, armed with shotguns. Witnesses said many RDR supporters were armed with knives, sticks, and machetes.
As the march approached the national television station in Cocody, they were met by scores of police and gendarmes, supported by FPI youths armed with machetes and clubs. The ensuing clashes resulted in at least five deaths and scores of wounded.
A RDR leader who was present both at the stadium and on its way to the TV station, recounted what happened:78
First we went to the stadium. We waited until around noon for the RDR leadership to show up. Finally, [RDR secretary-general] Madame Diabaty arrived but the sound system for the meeting didn't work so there was no way to communicate with the masses. Eventually the militants got a bit agitated. Madame Diabaty asked us to go back home, the militants said no, that we're ready to die for our cause. Madame couldn't control us, we were fed up and wanted to move; we wanted to protest the arbitrary rejection of our candidate.
Scores of fleeing RDR protesters sought refuge within an empty technical institute, the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS), but were then forced out by gunfire and teargas. At least four protesters died within the ENS: two were electrocuted while trying to hide, and two were shot when security forces opened fire on the institute.
The clashes around the national television station on December 4, 2000, were notable for two patterns of abuse that differed from the October wave of political violence. The first was the overt collaboration between security forces and FPI supporters, and the second was sexual abuse against women.
Security Force Collaboration with the FPI
By December a relationship appeared to have been consolidated between police and gendarmes and FPI youth groups, pro-FPI student groups such as the Côte d'Ivoire Student Federation (Fédération Éstudiantine et Scolaire de Côte d'Ivoire FESCI), and neighborhood defense units from ethnic groups identified with the FPI. Numerous witnesses described collaboration, or coordination, between these government forces and FPI supporters on December 4, 2000, when they worked together to round up RDR demonstrators, patrol through neighborhoods, or man roadblocks. In other cases, the security forces stood by while FPI supporters committed serious violations such as rape and murder. These state forces ceased to work for the protection of the general population while becoming partisan supporters of the ruling party.
This collaboration was very clear in the afternoon clashes around the national television station. As hundreds of RDR supporters approached the national television station, units of police and gendarmes worked hand in hand with FPI supporters to "defend" the installation and break up the march. An RDR activist described the operation:79
After leaving the stadium, hundreds of us decided to go towards RTI-peacefully. As we were getting close to the RTI, some FPI militia who we thought were our people blocked the junction, and then the gendarmes blocked the other way and we were encircled. This happened at around 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. We had about ten or so armed Dozo traditional hunters in front of us; they'd originally come to protect our RDR leaders. Then a truck full of gendarmes started firing tear gas at us...and at that moment other FPI and FESCI [university student] youths who'd been hiding in the bushes and behind buildings emerged. Some of them had bricks, wood, and wore red bandanas. At this point they weren't mixed with the police or gendarmes. I saw them clearly and could even be able to recognize some of them.
Then the FESCI youth who'd been hiding in the nearby student housing at `Cité Rouge' started chasing and capturing RDR demonstrators as they tried to flee. They beat them and handed some over to the police.
Several other RDR supporters described being captured during joint operations between FPI supporting youths and the security services. A twenty-seven-year-old student captured by FPI supporters and then handed over to the security forces during an operation on the afternoon of December 4, 2000, recounted how he was only saved when he pretended he belonged to a non-northern ethnic group:80
To get away from the troubles we climbed up to the second story of the technical institute and just prayed that we'd be ok. But eventually the gendarmes discovered we were there and started firing a lot of tear gas. They broke the windows and launched tear gas bombs directly into where we were hiding. They told us to come out or they'd kill us.
I was met by three gendarmes, one policeman and five FPI youths who had white charcoal on their faces. There were three other youths lying on the ground; bleeding and moaning. Then in front of the gendarmes two FPI youths started beating us with a big piece of wood. There was one youth they accused of being a Dozo and who was being severely beaten by two FPI youths and one gendarme.
The FPI youths beat us more and seemed to be the ones giving the orders. It was the FPI who said there were still people hiding inside and said the gendarmes should open fire to scare them out-and they did. I never saw the gendarmes giving the FPI orders. I begged them, I said I wasn't in the march. One of the gendarmes kept beating me and then an FPI youth asked me what my explanation was. I explained that I'd gone to see my parents, that they needed medicine, and that I was captured on my way. Seeing he didn't believe me, I explained again in Agni [from the Akan ethnic group of south and east Côte d'Ivoire] and after some time he said to the gendarme, `leave him, I think I know this guy.' Then the youth helped me get out of there.
After a thirty-six-year-old RDR supporter was severely beaten up by a group of three FPI student militants (he suffered a broken arm and three-inch skull fracture), he ran to the police for protection. He described what happened then:81
After being tear-gassed we all scattered in different directions. While trying to escape I was caught by three FPI people who immediately set upon me and started beating me; one robbed my shoes, another took my blue jeans. They hit me on the head with iron bars and thick pieces of wood. Others RDR people were being beaten at the same time. I finally broke away and ran to a policeman, thinking he'd protect me but instead he hit me, whack, with the blunt end of his rifle. I fell down.
Then four FPI, including the same three who'd been beating me, came to where I was with the policeman and said they wanted to put me in a car which had been set on fire during the disturbances. And the policeman just nodded and told me to say my last prayers but thankfully at the same moment the Commissioner of the 8th Police District of Cocody happened to come by. He told me to get up and took me inside his car to the station where he ordered them to call the Red Cross to take me to the hospital.
Several other victims from Koumassi and Abobo described being dragged from their homes by joint patrols of FPI supporters and either police or gendarmes. A twenty-three-year-old Burkinabé who was one of fifteen people, mostly foreigners, captured from Koumassi on the morning of December 4, 2000, described what happened.82
I'd gone to work that day, but my boss told me that because of the situation I should return home. Shortly after getting back home, between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., a friend of mine came to our house to warn us that the gendarmes and FPI youths were going around the neighborhood pointing out Dioula homes and capturing people.
I rushed to close the main door to our compound, but shortly after a group of gendarmes and FPI people came. I saw four gendarmes with red berets, and about twenty FPI youths. First they sent tear gas bombs and then they broke into the compound. We all tried to scatter; many from my compound jumped over the walls and ran but I couldn't get away.
One of the gendarmes accused us of being among the RDR marchers and of throwing stones at them and some of the FPI people started beating us. Then they shoved me into a truck with about fifteen others, including three Burkinabés and one Malian, and took me to the Police Academy where I spent about one week.
Serious human rights violations, including murder and rape, were committed by FPI supporters in full view of the police and gendarmes. In some cases police and gendarmes attempted to intervene, but Human Rights Watch documented several disturbing incidents of overt complicity-and in some cases collaboration-while these abuses were taking place.
On December 4, an ambulance carrying five RDR supporters wounded during the march to the stadium was stopped in Cocody by some twenty gendarmes backed up by a large group of FPI supporters. The gendarmes ordered the wounded to get out of the ambulance, threatening to kill them and the ambulance personnel if they refused to do so. One of the women patients was then dragged away and raped by at least two of the FPI youths in full view of the gendarmes. One of the wounded, a twenty-six-year-old mechanic, described what happened:83
Five of us, three men and two women, had been hit during clashes around the fire brigade. I'd been shot in the leg. Later the Red Cross picked us up in an ambulance to take us to Cocody University Hospital. When we neared the national television station we were stopped by about twenty gendarmes. Hanging around them was a big mob of around a hundred FPI youths. The FPI had their shirts tied around their waists, wore black bandanas and had white powder on their faces. One of the gendarmes ordered everyone, including the wounded, to come down and threatened to kill anyone who didn't. He put his head inside the ambulance said `we're going to kill all of you and leave you in a shallow grave behind the prison just like the last time you marched.' [Referring to the fifty-seven men whose bodies were found in the Charnier de Yopougon.]
Then the driver said, `no you can't shoot us, you can't do this, I will denounce you.' But the gendarme just pushed the driver and pointed his gun at us. Those of us who were able then got down, being pushed and slapped us we did. One gendarme hit me on the right check with the butt of his rifle. They left the two most seriously wounded because they'd lost consciousness.
One of the wounded girls was about seventeen. She'd been hit in the arm with a tear gas canister and wasn't too badly wounded. When she got down from the ambulance a group of about five FPI youths came up to the gendarme who'd stopped us and started yelling, `Oh chief, let us have this one, she's from the north anyway, we want to do something with her.' The gendarme said, `the northerners are like sheep, do what you want.' And then the girl was dragged off by the youths. She was crying, `forgive me for what I've done, leave me, leave me.' They took her about five meters away by the side of the road, and I saw one, then another raping her. Then another group of about twenty FPI youths came and walked off with her. The raping took about ten minutes.
About three minutes later a gendarme officer with a walkie-talkie and three bars [a captain] came up and yelled at the gendarme who'd stopped us saying, `leave them now, they're wounded.' The driver explained that the young wounded woman had been taken away but the chief just said, `shut up, don't talk so much.' The ambulance driver insisted, explaining that she was also wounded but the officer threatened that if we didn't leave just then, he'd kill us all. We didn't see the girl after that and I don't know where they took her.
On December 4, a forty-one-year-old businessman participating in the RDR march to the stadium, fled into the largely Ébrié neighborhood of Anonkoua with several other demonstrators after being fired on by gendarmes. He described how a young RDR militant had his throat slashed by a group of youths in the presence of three gendarmes.84
As we marched by we found that the Ébriés had blocked the route. I saw they were armed with machetes, hunting rifles, and pieces of wood. There was a confrontation for fifteen minutes or so-we wanted to continue marching and they refused to allow us to pass. At one point they started firing and two of our people were wounded.
Then two trucks of gendarmes arrived. There was gunfire and confusion and we all ran helter-skelter. Two other marchers and I were forced to run into the Ébrié neighborhood. We knew they'd be hostile but really had no other choice. The Ébrié didn't seem to notice me perhaps because I was dressed well, had glasses, and had been able to keep myself clean. I started walking slowly, like I had nothing to hide, and gave the `V' sign to let them believe I was an FPI supporter. I guess I didn't look like the typical RDR militant.
But about five meters behind me, one of the RDR militants who'd fled with me had black charcoal on his face, and so was easily identified. As I walked away I kept glancing back and saw that he'd been caught by about five Ébriés. The one who caught him threw him to the ground and then another hit him repeatedly with a thick piece of wood. Then a third came by with a machete and cut his throat. They were yelling, `he's RDR, he was in the march!' The boy was begging and yelling, `please, please, I'm sorry.' There were about fifty or so Ébrié youth around, a few of them with hunting rifles, and nearly all the rest had machetes. The three that killed him all had white chalk on their face; in their tribe it's a sign of war. From the time they caught him to the time they killed him was only about two minutes.
As the boy was being killed a group of three gendarmes was running through the neighborhood. They were about ten meters away but they definitely saw when the boy was being killed. After he was dead they came a bit closer to look at the corpse. Then together with the Ébrié youths, they started patrolling around together looking for other marchers. They were definitely working together; the Ébrié were indicating where they thought the RDR youths had run. The gendarmes had time to intervene to stop the killing of the RDR youth, but they didn't. After seeing this I started trembling. I felt sick. But I just tried to control myself walking slowly, confidently, until I could get away.
Rape and Sexual Abuse
Human Rights Watch documented significantly more cases of sexual abuse against women from the December wave of violence than during the October presidential elections. The incidents, including rape, gang-rape, and penetration with truncheons, sand, and branches, were perpetrated by police and gendarmes, and by FPI supporters with the complicity of the security forces. All the victims were RDR supporters or women from northern ethnic groups. They were sexually abused in the street, within the ENS technical institute, and within both the National Police Academy and National Gendarme Academy. Victims and witnesses said the abuse was perpetrated by both cadets and officers.
On December 4, 2000, gendarmes, or FPI supporters in front of gendarmes or police, raped from six to ten young women who had run into the ENS technical institute to flee the afternoon street battles between RDR supporters and security forces. Several young women were handed over to youths to rape after the gendarmes were "finished" with them, "inviting" the FPI youths to sexually abuse the young women. Six of these women were then transferred to the National Police Academy where they were all subjected to other serious forms of sexual abuse, torture, and humiliation. Most of these abuses were perpetrated in the presence of high-level officers within the Academy. Four women were taken to the National Gendarme Academy where they were all raped for two days. All women interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported being beaten, specifically on the buttocks and thighs, while one suffered a broken arm and another a broken finger.
The ENS technical institute where many of the rapes occurred is located near a university dormitory. A student watching from her window described the scene and how gendarmes "invited" others to rape the young women during December 4, 2000:85
I saw six women totally nude in the courtyard. Three of them were being raped by the gendarmes and the other three were handed over to the FPI youths. The gendarme knew some of the students were watching; in fact some of us, the women students, screamed from the windows for them to stop. But they didn't care. Before starting to rape, the gendarmes looked up at us watching from the windows and screamed things like, `Come and get it; a free woman, who has a condom? Come and look, free porno.' I saw ten gendarmes rape these girls; and some even took their rifle, pieces of branches, and sand and put it into their privates. The three women were being guarded in one place in the compound by one gendarme. Then they called one woman, and all ten of them raped her. Then she'd move to a side and they'd bring the second one.
Then these three were handed over to the FPI. I didn't see what happened to them there. I think they were raped in another place. We stayed there and watched this going on for two hours. I even called the police to come and stop it but they said they couldn't do anything. Later they put the girls in a truck and drove them away. It was so horrible I couldn't sleep for three days.
One of the three young women described by the student above was visibly traumatized as she recounted how she and two other women were gang-raped by some ten gendarmes and several militant FPI youths on the grounds of the ENS technical institute. The young woman, a seventeen-year-old RDR supporter, was later taken to the National Gendarme Academy where she was gang raped by several more gendarmes for two more days.86
There was a lot of shooting so we ran into the ENS to hide. The gendarmes fired a lot of teargas into the place and after we started coughing and sneezing, they came to know that we were there. As soon as they dragged us out they started beating us and then three of us were raped-myself, the caretaker's wife, and a woman from Dabou.
The gendarmes raped us right there in the courtyard on the grass and dirt. They told us to lie down and said, `and you say you want a Burkinabé president; just wait and see what we do to you.' First one raped me and then when I tried to get up another would push me down and get on top of me. About ten gendarmes raped me. A few of them also made me take their penises in my mouth. When they were finished they called the youth from FPI and asked, `who wants to make love with them?' and then several of them came and raped us as well. Maybe even ten of them. I don't remember. It all became a blur. At one point one of the youths put sand in my sex.
They really mistreated the wife of the caretaker. She screamed that she was not in the march but they kept saying they didn't care. One of the gendarmes told the caretaker to get a machete and cut off a small branch from a banana tree. Then they told her to put the branch inside her sex. They forced her poor husband to watch. Some of the gendarmes doing the raping had two `V's [sergeant] and others had two bars [first lieutenant].
Later they took me and another girl to the Gendarme Academy. They left the caretaker's wife and when we arrived we found two more girls already being held. We were all raped inside the Academy as well. The first night four gendarmes took us near the toilet area and raped all four of us. That night I was raped by four gendarmes. The next day they beat us from morning till night and then late at night I was raped by four different gendarmes. I saw the other three being raped right next to me. They made us take their sex into our mouths. I bled for several days following the rapes. During my time there I was beaten with iron bars, with batons and with the iron belt buckle of their red rope belts. They especially beat us on our thighs and bottoms. Things got a lot better after Wednesday when a gendarme from the Dioula tribe gave us, the women, clothes and told us that if anyone else tried to rape us, we should cry out. He gave us soap, helped us to find water and put guards in front of us to protect us.
A twenty-two-year-old university student who was sexually abused inside the ENS by two FPI supporters described how she was handed over to the youths by the police: 87
After the teargas became too much we decided to come out from where we were hiding [inside the ENS]. As we came out, the police and gendarmes were there. I was arrested by two police, who started beating me the second they got hold of me. They kept saying, `but you're a girl, what are you doing here.' After beating me the police handed me over to some of the FPI youths who were hanging around and said, `here's another one, go do what you want with her.'
The FPI youths dragged me in between two parked cars. Nearby I could see two other girls, totally naked, being raped by other FPI youths. The youths ordered me to go inside the room and I begged them to spare me. When I refused they started beating me and ripping my clothes off. Some of the police or gendarmes walked by and said, `what's your problem, why aren't you doing it to her?' and the youths said, `we can't do it in front of you, our senior brothers.' Then the police left.
Then they pushed me down. I started to cry and to give them excuses. I said I'm a schoolgirl, a virgin, then I told them I was on my monthly period. By this time the FPI youths were about eight; there were five holding me down. They said things like, `it's you who want to help the Burkinabé to be president.' I recognized one of the FPI youths and asked for his help. At one point I cried, `Allah' in Dioula and they became really angry, started beating me hard and said, `we'll kill all of you Dioula.' One boy told me to open my mouth and he tried to put his penis there.
A few minutes later a policeman arrived and said I should be freed. The FPI youths complained and the police said, `look, we're the ones who called you boys to use them in the first place, so we're the ones who will say when they should be let go.' Then the police escorted me to a police car and protected me from the youths who were trying to beat me as I went. I had black and blue marks on my back and legs, and fingernail marks on my chest from where one of the youths had clawed at me.
Police cadets and officers within the National Police Academy subjected six women detainees to sexual abuse, torture and humiliation. Human Rights Watch interviewed four of these women, three of whom were forced to lie naked in front of a group of officers who then inserted sand and police truncheons into their vaginas, and forced them to pretend to have sex with each other. Several were beaten in their genital area with truncheons and one was directly threatened with rape. One of these women was in the early stages of pregnancy, and had a miscarriage during her days in detention.
On December 4, a twenty-seven-year-old woman on her way home from work sought refuge within the teaching institute along with many RDR marchers. When police, accompanied by FPI youths discovered she was from the northern Senoufou ethnic group, she was beaten, stripped and raped by one of the youths. She was then taken to the National Police Academy where she suffered others forms of sexual abuse including an attempted rape. She recounted:88
We were six women in the Academy. I wasn't raped inside but we suffered so many other terrible things. On the first night a police cadet told me to get up and follow him to the bath and toilet area. When I arrived he told me to clean myself well because he and the others were going to have sex with me. I told him that others had already done this to me and that I was burning inside, but he just said `you do it every day in town but here you refuse us.' Then he asked, `the one who fucked you was he protected,' to which I said no but by this time he'd already taken down his trousers and had an erection. But when I told him this he left me.
But on the way back to the main room the policeman took me by where the officers sit. I knew they were officers because they had orange bars and were the ones we saw giving the orders. There were about seven or eight of them. When we reached them, one told me to lie down in front of them and open my legs. Then they came and looked at me, told me to open my legs wider and then ordered me to move like I'm making love with my husband. Then one of them put a handful of sand inside my vagina. It burned inside me. Then they told me get up and wash. They had me lying in front of them for about fifteen minutes.
Then the next night, a police cadet told me to go take water in a bucket. While I was leaning over to fill the bucket, he tried to put his baton inside of me but I yelled out and in the end he wasn't able to do it. Then this cadet told me, `the bosses wanted to talk to you.' And they took me to the same place as the day before. I believe most of the officers were the same but I can't be sure. Again they told me to lie down but this time they put the baton inside me saying, `just pretend this is your husband.' I cried from the pain.
Targeting of RDR Leaders
In December, scores of RDR militants, including several mid- and high-level RDR leaders, were arrested, charged before an examining judge and later imprisoned within the Abidjan House of Arrest and Corrections (Maison d'Arrêt et de Correction de Abidjan, MACA), on charges of disrupting public order, breach of the peace, complicity in the destruction of property, or being in possession of a weapon. Very few of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported having been formally interrogated or even questioned about their activities. None, at this writing, had received a proper trial. The prolonged detention differed from October when almost all detainees were released from detention within one week. At this writing some forty remain in detention. Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou said the RDR leaders and activists had been arrested in possession of firearms and other weapons, and maintained that, "All these elements lay bare the manifest desire of the RDR to take power through arms."89
Among those charged were Ali Coulibaly, RDR spokesman, Kafana Kone, RDR national secretary, and Jean-Philippe Kabore, the son of RDR general secretary Henriette Diabaty.
According to the detainees themselves and other witnesses, the RDR leaders were subjected to particularly severe forms of torture. In most cases it was gendarmes, including officers up to the ranks of lieutenant and captain who perpetrated this abuse.
Souleymane Kamarate Kone, thirty, who works in the communications department of the RDR, was tortured after being captured with Jean-Philippe Kabore and several others. From within the MACA he described the extent of the abuse received following their arrest on December 4, and how one RDR official died from the injuries sustained while in the custody of the gendarmes:90
At around 17:30 p.m. on December 4, I went with Jean-Philippe Kabore, the son of Madame Diabaty, and four others to check on her house, which is near the American Cultural Center. There were rumors that it'd been attacked. We went out thinking things had calmed down.
On our way, we passed by one gendarme checkpoint without problem, but ran into serious problems after the second one, which was just near the national television station. They asked us where we were going and Jean-Philippe explained that he was going to his mother's home. They asked who his mother was, and when he responded, `Henriette Diabaty,' they became aggressive and hysterical. The gendarmes who'd stopped us called for the others to come running-there were about twelve-and started shouting, `we've captured the son of Henriette.'
They ordered us out of the car, told us to take our clothes off and then started beating us with their belts, gun butts, and wood. One of them stabbed me and the others with the bayonet on the end of his rifle. When they'd searched us they found the small pistol that Fofanah, one of Madame Diabaty's bodyguard carries; he's a bodyguard and had a gun permit so it wasn't anything illegal. When they found the pistol they went crazy. They beat him savagely and kicked him in the face with their boots. At one point they forced him to open his mouth, and sprayed a tear gas canister directly into him.
After about twenty minutes of this, they ordered us to go inside the national television station, where they left us with a second group of about thirty gendarmes including several officers with two and three bars [the insignia of lieutenant and captain]. They beat and tortured us as well. At one point a gendarme officer, who said he knew I worked in the RDR communications department, ordered me to give him the names and whereabouts of the survivors from the Charnier de Yopougon. To make me talk he burned my pubic hair and around the testicles with a cigarette lighter. This happened several times. I saw the others being tortured as well. The national TV journalists saw everything that happened to us in there. After two hours they sent us, nude and bleeding, to the National Gendarme Academy.
After arriving there, an officer who I believe is the boss, came to meet us and was visibly angry at his men for what they did to us. He asked, `Why did you beat them?' and ordered that we be given clothes. Shortly after we arrived, Fofanah, the bodyguard, passed out from his injuries and from the tear gas. One of the officers ordered that he be taken to hospital. I saw there were about fifty other detainees already inside, all of them bleeding. We weren't actually beaten at the National Gendarme Academy and at around 21:00h, the remaining five of us were put into an ambulance. We thought we were going to be taken to a hospital to receive treatment but instead they took us to Agban Gendarme Camp where we joined several hundred more detainees.
The very worst of our very bad experience began the moment we arrived at Agban. First they told us to get undressed and then they beat everyone until blood was flowing from all of us. They treated Jean-Philippe the worst of all. They put some kind of yellow powder in a rubber dropper and put it in our wounds and eyes. As we lay bleeding on the ground, they told us we were dirtying their floors and ordered us to lick our own blood from the ground; `you're leaving our place dirty, clean it up, clean it.' A few of them had a clothes iron which they pressed on us. Here also I was asked for information about the survivors of Yopougon and about one of our student leaders who's president of the International Forum. One of the gendarmes said, `We know you manage the files at the RDR, you know where they are.'
On Tuesday at around 12:00 midnight, Babou Coulibaly, who's a private secretary to Alassane, was brought into Agban in a guard car. As soon as he arrived the gendarmes started pointing at him and accusing him of infiltrating Gbagbo's people and of wanting to kill the president. I don't know where they got this information. They dragged him out of the car and started beating him so hard he couldn't move. They went mad and behaved like animals; they jumped on him, kicked him in the gut and sides with their boots and thumped him with pieces of wood and the butts of their rifles. He was beaten unconscious and at around 2:00 a.m., perhaps afraid that he was going to die, they took him away. I later heard he died in hospital.
Violence Escalates Following a Presidential Speech
In the evening of December 4, 2000, President Gbagbo held a nationally televised address in which he imposed a curfew and state of emergency to run until the morning of December 12. In the address he ordered the security forces to act without restraint against the demonstrators whom he indirectly accused of trying to topple him through a coup d'état. He said, "police, gendarmes and soldiers from all branches of the armed forces are ordered to use all means throughout the country to oppose troublemakers.... Power is not acquired through putsches. I do not want to let Côte d'Ivoire become a country that goes from putsch to putsch. All troublemakers will be punished."91 Many RDR supporters later told Human Rights Watch that they believed the address had given the security forces a carte blanche for repression of the opposition.
It is difficult to ascertain the degree to which the gendarmes and police felt protected by the president's statement or whether the impunity they had thus far enjoyed was enough to influence their actions. Nonetheless, according to statements overheard by several victims, the police and gendarmes did indeed use the president's speech as an excuse to commit serious human rights violations.
From the early morning of December 5, 2000, the gendarmes and police deployed in force in the neighborhoods which had the previous day been flashpoints of RDR protest. The security forces blocked roads and then fired indiscriminately into crowds of demonstrators, rounded up and detained RDR supporters, and broke into the homes of foreigners, northerners, and Muslims. Victims and witnesses often described FPI supporters accompanying and in some cases collaborating with security forces as they perpetrated many of these attacks. Human Rights Watch documented the deaths of twenty-three civilians on December 5, 2000, all at the hands of the security forces. The neighborhoods most affected by the December 5, 2000, violence were the RDR strongholds of Abobo and Yopougon. As in October, the violence perpetrated by security forces in Yopougon appeared to escalate following the killing of a gendarme during clashes with RDR supporters.
A twenty-two-year-old driver seriously tortured during ten days of detention in the National Police Academy, described how the president's declaration helped the police cadets justify their actions:92
On several occasions we were threatened with death. One of them said they'd received orders directly from the president to do anything and everything to defend themselves, and that we should be careful because this meant they could easily kill us if they wanted. They said their pity for us was the only thing stopping them from doing so. They clearly said the president's edict meant that no one would intervene if they killed us. We were at their mercy.
After hours of clashes between RDR supporters and security forces in Abobo, gendarmes patrolled through the streets and alleys, captured, and in some cases gunned down suspected RDR supporters. A Malian man described how gendarmes with civilians he assumed were FPI supporters broke into the house of his brother, cousin, and an Ivorian Dioula on December 5 and murdered them without even having asked the men to identify themselves:93
There are several families living in this compound; all of us are Malian, except one family from Côte d'Ivoire. None of us are RDR activists; as Malians we had no reason to be involved with national politics.
On Tuesday [December 5], around 11:30 a.m. a friend came into the compound yelling, `the gendarmes have arrived. Be careful.' We quickly shut all the windows and doors. Shortly afterwards, we came under attack. We heard people yelling, and through a crack in a window I saw a lot of gendarmes accompanied by a few civilians I assumed were FPI approaching our place.
As they came closer I heard one of the civilians say, `It's here; this is a Dioula compound,' and then they fired ten or so tear gas bombs inside the compound, setting two rooms on fire. We were choking but managed to put all the women and children in one room where we hoped they'd be protected. We knew it was the men they were after. We heard banging at the door and then six of us, including me, jumped over the wall into the compound next door while five hid in our own compound. Shortly after we jumped over the wall, I heard the gendarmes break through our own door and was later told ten or so burst inside.
Myself and two others had hid under the bed in one of the rooms, and the other three hid elsewhere. From under the bed we kept hearing, `leave, leave, now, we've come to kill you.' We knew they were trying to break down the door of this compound as well. Then we heard the sound of the door breaking and then yelling and steps and running and then a lot of gunshots. We didn't hear the gendarme saying stop or asking for their identification or anything.
After we could hear the gendarmes had moved on, we came out and found the bodies of my brother, cousin, and our friend lying in blood. One had fallen in the last room of the compound and the other two had fallen in the abandoned house next door. There were no wounded; only the three dead.
I don't know why they attacked us. We later heard they were looking for a bus driver who is an RDR man. Some say the FPI militants had told the gendarmes this driver had hidden in our compound. Others said the gendarmes were pursuing RDR youths they'd accused of causing trouble, and thought they'd sought refuge in our place.
The gendarmes spent two hours in our neighborhood and as they were leaving I saw the local FPI people applauding, cheering and giving the V sign. Then we set about burying my brother and the others.
A thirty-year-old Burkinabé trader was one of five Burkinabés captured on December 5 during a police operation in Abobo. They were later taken to the National Police Academy where all were tortured:94
I live with two cousins and some friends, all from Burkina Faso, in what would be considered a Burkinabé neighborhood. At around 18:00h, about forty of us were inside preparing to break our fast when ten policemen suddenly burst into our compound. They screamed, `hands up, nobody move,' and started beating on us and ordered the five of us men they'd caught into a civilian minibus waiting outside. They didn't ask for our papers, they didn't accuse us of anything. But it was clear they knew we were foreigners. The arrest happened very quickly; they only spent about a minute in the compound. They said things like, `you Burkinabé...you came here to look for a little money and now you want to rule us.'
The most serious clashes on December 5, 2000, occurred in the Port Bouet II section of Yopougon. After a gendarme was killed early in the morning during serious clashes between hundreds of RDR supporters and security forces, gendarmes fired into a group of RDR protesters, killing at least thirteen. Later that morning the gendarmes, accompanied by several civilians alleged to be FPI supporters, swept through the neighborhood with bottles of petrol setting fire to many houses, cars, and businesses. At least three foreigners, including a two-year-old Nigerian girl and an eleven-year-old Togolese girl were killed when explosive devices were fired into the densely populated civilian neighborhood.
A thirty-year-old RDR supporter who participated in the clashes described how the gendarmes opened fire on demonstrators and later detained and stripped him and two other youths before shooting them. He described how he survived by pretending to be dead:95
The trouble started at around 8-9:00 a.m. in the morning on Tuesday. The police were trying to stop the RDR from demonstrating but we were too many; we were around 500 to 700 demonstrators concentrated in the roundabout leading to the hospital. Then the gendarmes arrived and we all took off running. And then they opened fire at us. At that point I saw about six to eight bodies. About forty of us were captured by different groups of gendarmes.
Three of us were captured in my group. They held us for some time, ordered us to remove all our clothes and then forced us to walk into the neighborhood. By this time the gendarmes had already stated burning houses. They asked us to set a house on fire but we refused and then I heard a gendarme with three V's [a staff sergeant] and a walkie-talkie say, `kill them, we don't want RDR here.' He seemed to be the one in charge.
Then they told the three of us to run and from about ten meters away opened fire. I wasn't hit but I fell down as if I had been. I saw the bodies of the other two later. Then one of the gendarmes came by and hit me hard with a gun, but I just lay there. Later in the day after things had calmed down I counted thirteen dead bodies lying in the roundabout.
A restaurant owner described how gendarmes set fire to his restaurant and other neighboring properties:96
On Tuesday morning at around 8:00 a.m. the gendarmes came back in force. They were firing everywhere. I saw them in black and red berets and with patches from the Marine [National Navy]. At around 1:00 p.m. I opened my window a little and saw about eight gendarmes walking down the street with a ten liter can of petrol, accompanied by several, I think six, guards from the University Hospital of Yopougon, and a few FPI youths. I watched them as they set fire to our neighborhood. First they threw petrol on the kiosk of a Baoule man, a furniture store, and then they came to my restaurant. First the FPI youths broke down the door and stole the music recorder, espresso machine, and some eggs, milk, and oil. Then the FPI and the guards gathered all the chairs together and the gendarmes set them on fire. Then, as my restaurant was burning, one of the gendarmes sprayed it with bullets and continued on up the road.
I saw the gendarmes setting fire to so many places: my place, two other houses one of which is owned by a Malian, a big coal truck, and a taxi. Around the same time I saw the gendarmes fire into a house occupied by Togolese people. I heard an explosion and saw the father and three girls come running out. I later heard people crying and learned one of the girls and a Nigerian man had been killed. After this we all fled the neighborhood until things calmed down. I don't know why the gendarmes did all this. I'd heard that a gendarme had been killed at the roundabout between 8:00 and 9:00 or so in the morning and maybe it was in retaliation. All I know is that I lost 6 million CFA [U.S.$8,570] in the fire.
The seventeen-year-old sister of a two-year-old Nigerian girl who was killed when an explosive device fell into their compound on December 5, 2000, described what happened and how the gendarmes later impeded the evacuation of the wounded:97
From around 6:00 a.m. the youths had started moving up and down skirmishing with the gendarmes. Then around 8:00 a.m. we heard that a gendarme had been killed by one of the marchers. The thing became much more serious after that. There was a lot of gunfire.
Then five minutes later our own problem started. We were all in our beds; my mother was lying down with my little sister and I was sitting on my own bed. At around 8:45 a.m. a tear gas bomb was fired inside our compound. We started choking and coughing and then suddenly there was a huge explosion, a crashing sound and white smoke everywhere. There was blood everywhere, we were cut up all over; my sister was bleeding heavily from the head and from her stomach. My mother was hit on the head and all over her legs and back. There was a big hole in our roof where the bomb dropped and the iron bits went everywhere.
Shortly after the incident we tried to take them to the hospital but the gendarmes refused us permission. Shortly after 9:00 a.m. a gendarme who was passing by as we opened the door, came up to us agitated and yelling. My father's first wife tried to tell the gendarme we had wounded who needed to go to the hospital. This gendarme just asked her if she had matches. I don't know what he was going to use them for. She insisted saying, "please we need your help, we have wounded who need to go to hospital," but he refused and threatened to kill her if she insisted. The same gendarme came back three times asking for matches and threatening us. We told them we were Nigerian and had nothing to do with all the troubles. They knew we had wounded but they wouldn't let us out. And all the time my sister and mom were getting worse and worse. We weren't able to take them to hospital until 2:00 p.m. My little sister died shortly after we arrived. These bombs are things they use in war-is it war they're waging on us?
Several medical personnel described how the RDR wounded were refused treatment within the University Center Hospital of Yopougon, which is located less than 500 meters from where the December 5, 2000, clashes occurred. An ambulance driver described the scene and how guards and gendarmes refused them entry:98
They told us they'd received orders not to open the door. We spent over two hours trying to convince them to open the door. We tried to explain the principle of neutrality and that any wounded had a right to receive treatment. Finally at around noon, they allowed us to enter. Once inside I heard a few nurses comment that they weren't going to treat any RDR militants. Inside we found scores of wounded, almost all by bullet and they hadn't been properly attended to. We spent the next few hours going back and forth, evacuating them to other hospitals willing to treat them.
Many detainees were repeatedly threatened with death and subjected to mock executions. In December these death threats commonly revolved around the theme of the Charnier de Yopougon, as groups of detainees were told they would be taken out and shot in a forest, as had happened in October.
An eighteen-year-old RDR activist detained in Agban Gendarme Camp for twelve days and tortured recounted:99
They always threatened to kill us. On the first day [December 4], at around 11:00 p.m. a gendarme armed with a machine gun and strings of bullets wrapped around his shoulders stopped in the front of the hall where we where detained as if to address all of us and said, `tonight we're going to kill you all. At 3:00 in the morning we're going to load all of you onto trucks and kill you in the Banco Forest.' Then a few of the other gendarmes standing with him said, `Do you remember all those bodies in the Yopougon massacre? Well, that was small compared to what we're going to show you tonight.' One of the gendarme doctors who later treated us threatened us, saying, `be careful, if the situation turns to war you'll all be dead.'
A nineteen-year-old taxi driver was arrested in Yopougon with eight other neighbors, including several foreigners, none of whom had participated in the RDR protests. After being forced from their homes they were taken to a local police station. That night they were put in a truck without being told their destination. He recounts how mention of the Charnier de Yopougon was used to terrify them:100
At 10:00 p.m. the policemen told us to get dressed and told us to get into a police vehicle. I had been arrested with eighteen others; including eight from Mali, a Guinean, and a trader from Niger who told me he'd been picked up. On our way going, one of the policeman asked us if we'd seen the pictures of the Charnier de Yopougon. He said we were going to end up like those youth. We were terrified because at that point we didn't know where they were taking us. I guess we were relieved to arrive at the National Police Academy.
Seven women detainees, who for three days had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse within the National Police Academy, were on December 7, 2000, told to their relief they were to be separated from the men. As they were being separated, police cadets then subjected them to a mock execution. One of these women described her terrifying experience:101
By Thursday, after several days of hell and humiliation we were given medical treatment and told we were to be separated from the male prisoners. They said we were going to the amphitheatre. I thought our suffering was over but soon learned our ordeal was yet to finish.
After leaving the clinic they told the seven of us to come with them. They took us to an entrance to a stairwell and told us to wait. Then they took us one by one down a long dark corridor that led to a basement. I was the fourth to go. It was dark and as we walked they said they were going to kill me and then I heard a shot. As I entered the amphitheatre I saw the woman who'd preceded me lying there. When I saw this I started crying and screaming and of course thought they were dead and that they were going to kill me too. Then they told me to lie down and fired a shot in the distance. Then the police cadets who'd thought this up just started laughing and told me to lie down with the others. They were doing this just to terrify us. It was just a `little game,' a little fun the cadets were having. There was even a woman cadet among them.
An RDR supporter detained on the street near the national television station on December 4, 2000, described being threatened with death as gendarmes argued over how to kill him:102
I was on the street detained with about ten others. They were all horribly beaten and bleeding all over. There was one whose face was smashed, I couldn't tell where his nose or mouth was, and there were two that weren't moving at all. I think they were dead.
Then a few gendarmes ordered me and other youth who were the only ones really conscious to pick up the wounded and the bodies and put them inside a truck. But I couldn't because I was so weak. They beat me, pushed me to the ground and then one of the gendarmes walked up to me, put his boot in my face and told me to lick it. While I was doing this, another one readied his gun and said he was going to kill me, another disagreed and said he was going to cut my penis, and yet another said they should cut my throat and the last said they should cut my legs off so I couldn't walk. They took my ID card and ripped it up. The thirty or so FPI youths were hanging around cheering the gendarmes on, and started saying things like, `hey you Burkinabé with your bastard president.'
In December the targeting of Muslims by the state security forces, particularly by the police, became more organized. On December 5, 2000, seventy-four Muslims and their imam, gathered for afternoon prayer in the Avocatier Mosque, were rounded up in a police operation involving scores of police and several trucks. The Muslims were later detained for several days within the National Police Academy of Cocody. In a similar operation, some twenty-five Muslims and their imam were arrested by police as they inspected the damage caused to the Sofogia Mosque which had just been burned by a mob of FPI militants. Both groups were accused of hiding arms within their mosques.
While in detention, groups of Muslims were beaten, doused with urine and dirty water, forced to break their fast, and refused the right to pray. Elderly Muslims and imams were forced to pull out their facial hair and watch as Korans and other sacred texts were destroyed by police. In detention Muslims were often insulted and forced to break religious rules. This was particularly reported in December, during the holy month of Ramadan. Also in Abobo, gendarmes opened fire into at least one mosque, later rounding up the imam and several of his family members.
One of the mosque-goers from the Avocatier Mosque described what happened to the seventy-five Muslims captured during an afternoon operation by police from the 13th District:103
On Tuesday, December 5, the police came into our mosque. All seventy-five of us, including our imam, were taken away. Fasting month had just begun and that day we'd gathered a little bit ahead of the afternoon prayer to read from a special book of Koranic teachings the imam uses. He told us it was very precious to him because his father had brought it from Saudi Arabia in 1948.
So, at exactly 3:58 p.m., we started to hear cars arriving, running, shooting and yelling and the next thing I knew a policeman pointed a gun at the imam and yelled, `don't move.' They threw teargas bombs in the place and as we ran outside we saw that the mosque had been surrounded by policemen; some with pistols, others long guns and a few with grenade launchers. There was a police truck with "13th District" written on it and three smaller cars. I know police uniforms; this was definitely a police operation.
Once outside they ordered all of us to take off our robes and get on our knees. They beat us. The women were crying and screaming, `leave our husbands, let our sons go.' This annoyed the police who then started shooting in the air. The women then ran about fifty meters away and watched from there.
Then we had to walk on our knees towards the waiting vehicles and the police said, `you Muslims are nasty, dirty people, where are the guns you're hiding?' They didn't ask us any questions, tell us what we were accused of or give us time to sort the problem out. Many of us held onto our Korans and the imam clutched his precious book of teachings.
Then they took us to the 13th district police station. As we got down from the vehicles there were several FPI activists in a line throwing stones and rocks at us. First the police ordered us, including the imam, to lie down in the mud, but one of the mosque youths said that he wouldn't allow it so he got down first and told the imam to lie on top of him. When they started to beat us with their batons and another youth said he wouldn't allow the imam to be beaten so he lay on top. The police really beat this boy, as if trying to punish our imam. Later they ordered some other prisoners to urinate in bottles and they poured it all over us.
The whole time we were trying to protect our Korans. But then the policemen started grabbing them and ripping them up in front of us. One of the policemen holding a rocket launcher ordered the imam to give up his sacred book. He refused but the policeman finally forced it from his hands and right in front of all of us started to rip up the pages of that very book the imam's father had brought from Saudi. The imam just stood by and looked. It was painful for all of us.
Then around 8:00 p.m. they asked for our names and freed eight from my group including those who had typically non-Dioula names like Koffi and Kwasi. Then in groups of twenty they loaded the rest of us in into the police trucks and took us to the Police Academy.
The sixty-five-year-old caretaker of Depot No.9 Mosque in Abobo described seeing his mosque attacked by a patrol of gendarmes on December 5, 2000. The imam, his five sons and three nephews were captured from their house and detained for several days during the same operation:104
I live about fifty meters from the mosque. On Tuesday things in our neighborhood were very tense. At around 9:00 a.m. I saw a group of about twenty or thirty gendarmes dressed in combats, with red belts and blue helmets arrive in a big truck. As soon as they drove up, the residents of the neighborhood rushed into their houses and shut the doors. The gendarmes parked near the mosque, got out and started patrolling here and there.
Some time later I saw five or so gendarmes take position around the mosque. First they fired at least three tear gas canisters inside. Then at least four of them took up position and started shooting at the mosque. I heard the sound of windows being broken and bullets pinging against the mosque. They stayed for about ten minutes but never scaled the fence, perhaps because they could see no one was inside.
A forty-year-old Malian man who was dragged from his house by police on December 5, 2000, as he was preparing to pray described religious taunting suffered while in detention:105
After detaining us the police asked who was fasting. In our small group we were about five. Then they forced us to drink water. They held a cup above us and asked us to open our mouths. We were defenseless. I was held for ten days and was not able to pray through my entire time in detention. And it was holy month. There was nothing we could do. I just surrendered to God because I simply had no power.
The Parliamentary Elections Take Place
After two days of bloody clashes in Abidjan, a mediation committee comprised of government representatives, RDR officials, members of the security forces, and others was set up to try to ease tensions ahead of the December 10, 2000, parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, tension in the largely Muslim north rose as RDR demonstrators set up burning barricades, burnt down government offices, and chased local administrators out of at least three northern towns, including Ouattara's hometown Kong. In a further sign of tension, sixteen traditional leaders from the northern city of Odienne on December 8, 2000, released a statement expressing a desire to secede from the Côte d'Ivoire.106
By December 9, 2000, the mediation committee had worked out an agreement which called on the government to postpone the parliamentary elections by a week to allow the RDR to appeal the earlier Supreme Court ruling to exclude Alassane Ouattara from running. In return, the RDR agreed to postpone their planned boycott and call off all street protests. However, at the last minute, on December 9, 2000, instead of announcing the agreement on national television as agreed, Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou rejected the plan and asserted that elections would go ahead as scheduled. The government act reportedly angered United States and French diplomats working behind the scenes to broker the deal.107
On December 10, 2000, with the state of emergency and night time curfew declared earlier in the week still in effect, the parliamentary elections went ahead except in twelve northern districts where polls for twenty-seven seats had been disrupted by protesting RDR supporters. In the northern towns of Korhogo, Odienne, and Ouangolodougou there were numerous reports of destruction of ballot boxes, vandalizing of polling stations, and attacks upon election officials.108 In Korhogo, two election officials were reported to have been seriously injured.109 Elections in these districts were later held without incident on January 14. The ruling FPI party won a slight majority, with ninety-six seats, followed by the old ruling PDCI which won ninety-four seats.110
Local government elections took place nationwide on February 25, 2001. The RDR participated, deciding against a boycott of this contest, and won the majority of council seats. The elections were peaceful except for violent protests which erupted in Abobo when youths protested the defeat of their candidate by the winning RDR candidate. One RDR man was reportedly killed. Following its success in the municipal elections, the RDR renewed its calls for new presidential and legislative elections.111
63 "Gbagbo Orders Investigation of Torture Allegations," Panafrican News Agency, December 15, 2000.
64 Ruling by Tia Koné in relation to Alassane Dramane Ouattara (Arret de Tia Koné relatif á Alassane Dramane Ouattara), Abidjan, November 30, 2000.
65 "Ivory Coast: Focus on the Latest Electoral Crisis," U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)-West Africa, December 4, 2000.
68 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 3, 2001.
69 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 3, 2001.
70 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
71 Human Rights Watch interviews, Abidjan, February 10, 2001.
72 "Gbagbo Orders Investigation of Torture Allegations," Panafrican News Agency, December 15, 2001.
73 Human Rights Watch interviews with former detainees, Abidjan, February 5-11, 2001.
74 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
75 "Ivory Coast - Report of Violations Within the Police Academy," Ministry of the Interior, December 2000.
76 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
77 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 6, 2001.
78 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 6, 2001.
79 Human Rights Watch, Abidjan, February 6, 2001.
80 Human Rights Watch, Abidjan, February 3, 2001.
81 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
82 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
83 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
84 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 10, 2001.
85 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 6, 2001.
86 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 8, 2001
87 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 3, 2001.
88 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 8, 2001.
89 "Ivory Coast's President Tries to Restore Calm," www.cnn.com, December 5, 2000.
90 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 10, 2001.
91 "Ivory Coast in State of Emergency After Bloody Pre-election Violence," www.cnn.com, December 4, 2001.
92 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
93 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 11, 2001.
94 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
95 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 10, 2001.
96 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 10, 2001.
97 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 11, 2001.
98 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 11 and March 9, 2001.
99 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 3, 2001.
100 Human Rights Watch interview, February 7, 2001.
101 Human Rights Watch interview, February 10, 2001.
102 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 3, 2001.
103 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 11, 2001.
104 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 11, 2001.
105 Human Rights Watch interview, Abidjan, February 7, 2001.
106 "Ivory Coast poll delay urged," www.bbc.co.uk, December 9, 2000; "Ivory Coast Government Seeks Vote," Associated Press, December 9, 2000.
107 Douglas Farah, "Reneging on Pledge, Ivory Coast Government Holds Election," Washington Post, December 10, 2000.
108 "Official Confirms Elections Were Disrupted in North," Panafrican News Agency, December 10, 2000.
109 " Official Says There Was No Poll in 12 Ivorian Districts," Panafrican News Agency, December 11, 2000.
110 "Former Ruling Party Takes 15 Seats in Ivorian By-Election," Associated Press, January 15, 2001.
111 "Death Mars Ivorian Opposition Victory," www.bbc.co.uk, March 30, 2001.