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HRW: Ivory Coast military committed abuse, torture

The Ivory Coast's military committed widespread human rights abuses in August and September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a report [text, PDF] released Monday. The report details the alleged abuses including arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, extortion and torture. The military crackdown was in response to a series of coordinated attacks on military installations in August, allegedly committed by militants loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile]. HRW compiled its findings during a three-week mission to Abidjan beginning in late August after the military response was initiated. While HRW says [press release] that Ivorian authorities have the responsibility and right to respond to security threats, the Ivorian authorities have largely given that power to the country's military, the Republican Forces, which has no legal basis for arresting, interrogating and detaining suspects. In its official response to HRW, the Ivorian government stressed the the threat to the country and the need to support the military against the threat. However, authorities did promise an investigation into the report's allegations and said that prosecutions would result if anyone was suspected of human rights violations. HRW contends that the Republican Forces remain largely above the law that prosecuting those involved is an essential step toward returning to the rule of law and promoting reconciliation.

Violence in the Ivory Coast [JURIST news archive] has been continuous since the 2010 presidential election. Earlier this month the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] found Gbagbo fit to stand trial, which had been posponed [JURIST reports] since June. Gbagbo is charged with crimes against humanity on four counts including murder, persecution, inhumane acts, rape and other sexual assaults allegedly committed during the 2010 post-election violence. Through June 2012, violence continued [JURIST report] from Gbagbo supporters along the Liberian-Ivorian border, killing at least 50 civilians. In February HRW expressed concern over the thoroughness of the investigation into the post-election violence, while in December 2010 the ICC urged [JURIST reports] those in the Ivory Coast to refrain from further violence, which has yet to seize.

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