ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) – Hundreds of fighters aligned with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara committed grave crimes, including execution and torture during the country’s recent post-election violence, according to the final report of the country’s Commission of Inquiry given to the president on Wednesday.
Although the report has not yet been made public, the description of what it contains is bound to be welcomed and applauded by human rights groups, which have accused Ouattara’s administration of one-sided justice. Crimes committed by Ouattara’s fighters have been well-documented both by international rights groups and journalists that reported on the conflict, but despite numerous reports detailing the abuse, over a year after Ouattara seized power, only politicians and fighters allied with the president he ousted have so far been arrested.
Paulette Badjo, the head of the commission, said Wednesday that the inquiry revealed that 545 members of the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast, the army that was created to install Ouattara, committed summary executions, while 54 committed torture. By contrast, the commission found that 1,009 pro-Gbagbo fighters committed executions and 136 committed torture. The report also documents other crimes including sexual violence and extortion.
At least 3,000 people died in violence that erupted after former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara in the November 2010 election. Gbagbo was detained in April 2011 and transferred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague later in the year, where he is awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity. Since then, more than 100 Gbagbo loyalists, including the former ruler’s son and his wife, have been detained in Ivory Coast in connection with the conflict, while no fighters from Ouattara’s side have been credibly investigated, prompting allegations of “victor’s justice.”
Government officials have defended the lack of investigations against pro-Ouattara fighters by saying they were waiting for the commission to finish its work. Badjo said the purpose of the report was not to advocate for particular prosecutions. “Our role is not to pursue criminal proceedings against the authors of crimes,” she said. “Our role is to identify the authors of these crimes so that justice can take place.”
However, after Wednesday’s ceremony, Justice Minister Matto Loma Cisse suggested prosecutions would begin soon. “Now that the investigation is finished, we can link the investigation to prosecutions,” she said.
In brief remarks, Ouattara also reiterated his support for prosecutions of crimes committed by both sides during the conflict. “It is by letting justice play its role that we can fight impunity,” he said.
The full report was not released to the public Wednesday, but Ouattara said it would be at a later date. In a recent interview, however, Human Rights Minister Gnenema Coulibaly said the report could not be released without significant redactions so as to protect the identity of those who testified for the commission. “It will not be totally made public,” he said. “We must take into account the security of the people that intervened as witnesses. It won’t be a good thing for these persons to be exposed like this.”
Matt Wells, West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch and the author of a report on the post-election violence, said that the report should be released in full and that it should lead to prosecutions of pro-Ouattara fighters.
“The commission’s legacy will be determined by whether its work spurs prompt investigations into crimes committed by pro-Ouattara fighters, ensuring impartial – rather than one-sided – justice for the grave post-election crimes,” he said. “To guarantee transparency and to contribute to truth-telling for the conflict’s victims, the report’s findings should be made public in their entirety.”
The presentation of the final report to Ouattara came just days after Ivory Coast witnessed some of the most significant violence committed in Abidjan, the commercial capital, since the end of the conflict. At least 11 soldiers were killed in attacks on Sunday and Monday – incidents that government and military officials have said were carried out by Gbagbo loyalists.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday evening, Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko provided more details of an alleged plot involving rogue members of the army and Gbagbo loyalists in Ivory Coast and abroad. He said the attack on a military camp in Abidjan early Monday morning was coordinated by a soldier based at the camp who worked in concert with other military officials. He said the soldier, Ble Herve, had been in contact with Gbagbo loyalists in Abidjan and Paris. The attack, he said, was part of a broader attempt to take over part of the country and then press for Gbagbo’s release.
A total of 11 arrests have been made in connection with the recent attacks, Bakayoko said. Among those arrested, he said, is the brother-in-law of former first lady Simone Gbagbo, who is currently being held in the country’s north.
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