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Crimes on all sides in Ivory Coast


A nasty kind of war. A burned skeleton lies on the floor in a house in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, after forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara swept through town. Amnesty International accuses both Ouattara's and ex-president Laurent Gbagbo's security forces of atrocities


Philippe Desmazes

Amnesty International says that both sides committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the recent political impasse-turned civil war that tore through Ivory Coast.

An 80-page report by the human rights group found that forces loyal to ousted ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and his successor Alassane Ouattara, who was sworn-in at the weekend, both committed atrocities.

They killed civilians, perpetrated massacres, murdered people according to their tribe, religion or presumed political affiliation and raped women and girls.

"The conclusions in this report clearly show that all parties to the conflict have committed crimes under international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity," the report said.

Amnesty says that the United Nations also failed in its mandate to protect civilians. Hundreds were killed during the violence that erupted after disputed elections last November despite the presence of more than 9,000 UN peacekeepers as part of the UN Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI).

“UNOCI has a mandate to protect the civilian population yet in some cases it clearly failed to do this," said Amnesty’s West Africa researcher Gaëtan Mootoo.

Among the attacks documented through interviews with survivors and witnesses was the shooting dead of six women protesting against Gbagbo’s refusal to step down in Abidjan. That atrocity was committed by pro-Ggbagbo troops who fired into the unarmed crowd.

His security forces also shelled residential areas and busy markets.

But Ouattara’s forces were just as bad. In one infamous incident in the town of Duekoue hundreds were massacred when the pro-Ouattara army swept through. A UN base with armed peacekeepers is less than a mile away from where the killings took place.

At the president’s request the International Criminal Court is beginning an investigation into all the killings.

Justice must come quickly. Amnesty’s investigation found that killings continue. “Human rights violations are still being committed against real or perceived supporters of Laurent Gbagbo both in Abidjan and in the west of the country," said Mootoo.