Displaced Ivorians ‘too afraid to return’

Rights group says more than half a million people staying away from home due to fear of ethnic reprisals.

Ivory Coast
About 670,000 Ivorians remained displaced at the end of June, according to UN refugee agency figures [Reuters]

More than half a million people remain displaced by Ivory Coast’s post-election conflict and many are too afraid to return home for fear of ethnic reprisals, Amnesty International says in a report.

The London-based human-rights organisation says that forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the president, were reportedly involved in killings and other abuses during their battle to oust Laurent Gbagbo.

“Serious human rights violations including torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial executions have been committed in Ivory Coast since the arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo on April 11,” the 44-page report released on Thursday said.

It said both sides had committed crimes.

Gbagbo’s removal in April ended months of violent power struggle over a disputed election in November 2010.

Most of the abuses, and all of the killings, that Amnesty International documented happened in April and May, as the West African country – the world’s biggest cocoa producer – was still emerging from a conflict that killed at least 3,000 people and displaced more than a million.

The report further said the crimes, which were worst in the volatile west of the country, a tinderbox of ethnic and land tensions, had created a climate of fear preventing tens of thousands of refugees from returning home for fear of reprisals.

“It is therefore not surprising that the number of displaced people and refugees, the overwhelming number of whom belong to ethnic groups perceived as supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, remains very high,” the report said.

Some 670,000 Ivorians remained displaced at the end of June, it said, quoting UN refugee agency figures, and 55,000 people were still displaced in the main commercial city of Abidjan.

Commission of inquiry

Much of the persistent lawlessness, including beatings and intimidation of civilians, was being perpetrated by ethnic fighters from Ouattara’s Dioula tribe called Dozos.

These are allied to his former armed group which is currently being integrated into the national army.

Ouattara signed a decree on Wednesday establishing a commission of inquiry into crimes committed during the post-election crisis, giving it six months to reach conclusions.

He also wants to try Gbagbo and his senior aides currently detained in the north of the country for war crimes, aims which may fit ill with his goal of reconciling in a deeply divided country.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court has been carrying out preliminary research and may soon order an investigation into the most grave crimes committed during the post-election civilian conflict.

Amnesty International recommended it be expanded to cover all crimes committed since a rebellion cut the country in two in 2002.

Gbagbo’s supporters complain that not a single member of Ouattara’s camp has been arrested for alleged crimes, despite evidence of abuses by the former rebel troops.

“In order to end this cycle of violations and reprisals, it is essential to ensure justice for all victims, whatever their political affiliation or ethnic group,” Amnesty International said.

Source: News Agencies