(New York) - The government of the Ivory Coast sponsored violence against civilians in the wake of the October elections, Human Rights Watch charged in a backgrounder released today. The backgrounder includes a sample of testimonies taken from victims and witnesses outlining abuses.
Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations to conduct a prompt inquiry in the Ivory Coast to establish culpability for the violence. A preliminary investigative United Nations team is scheduled to report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan shortly.
"An international team is essential in the case of violence in the Ivory Coast," said Peter Takirambudde, director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "We have collected irrefutable evidence that government forces carried out brutal attacks on unarmed civilians. Those responsible for the killings, torture, and disappearances should be brought to justice."
In the days following the October 22, 2000 presidential elections, political, ethnic and religious violence resulted in the deaths of more than 150 people and the wounding of hundreds more. In Abidjan, state security forces gunned down political protesters in the streets and rounded up civilians, later executing them in ditches, fields and within a gendarme base.
The bodies of fifty-seven young men were found in a mass grave, at least eighteen more were found floating in a lagoon, and seven more were found slaughtered near a bus round-about. Hundreds of foreigners and political activists were detained and tortured by security forces, scores of whom were later "disappeared."
Supporters from the two major political parties attacked and in a several cases burned, shot or hacked to death those thought to be opposition supporters. Several mosques and churches were also attacked.
Human Rights Watch called on the government of the Ivory Coast to conduct a thorough investigation, and to hold perpetrators of abuses accountable for their crimes. Human Rights Watch calls on the government to cooperate fully with a U.N. commission of inquiry.