Ivory Coast: Detainees charge torture by military

By Robbie Corey-boulet

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Lt. Aboubakar Traore, the camp's second-in-command, also denied that physical abuse occurred at the camp. But he said soldiers may have resorted to torture while commanders were away.

"I don't want to say that we are perfect," he said. "I'm not sleeping here. I don't know exactly what the soldiers do when I'm sleeping."

But a guard at the facility, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said prisoners were routinely held there for multiple days for investigation. He also said beatings were commonplace, claiming they occurred when commanders were gone.

Asked whether the beatings were severe, he laughed and said: "There's no two ways of beating someone. We beat them severely so they can remember."

Abuse allegations in San Pedro should be investigated immediately, said Matt Wells, West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"The nature and pattern of the detainee mistreatment would indicate that, at a minimum, the camp's commanders should have been aware of such abuses and taken steps to prevent them and to punish soldiers involved," he said. "Ivorian authorities should investigate immediately and ensure that anyone responsible is brought to justice."

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the torture in San Pedro could soon worsen.

The government confirmed this week that Ousmane Coulibaly, a former zone commander in the New Forces rebel group, which controlled northern Ivory Coast from 2002 to 2010, had been appointed prefect of the San Pedro region.

Coulibaly has been implicated by Human Rights Watch in grave crimes during the post-election crisis, including torture and extrajudicial killings in Abidjan's Yopougon district.

Wells said the appointment "mocks the victims of these abuses and the government's promise to deliver impartial justice."

As they wait for Coulibaly to be installed in his new position, the former detainees in San Pedro question whether the abuse they and others have endured has made the city any safer.

"For me, I don't believe in the confessions they received," Bao said, "because these confessions were made under torture."

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