ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Police and soldiers in Ivory Coast have illegally detained and tortured more than 200 people including supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo, following a series of armed attacks that began in August, Amnesty International said on Friday.
U.N. investigators said earlier this month that exiled members of Gbagbo’s former government and military living in neighboring Ghana were behind the raids, which have targeted police and army installations as well as key infrastructure.
Gbagbo is awaiting trial in The Hague accused of crimes against humanity related to a brief war last year that erupted after he refused to accept the election victory of rival Alassane Ouattara in a late 2010 poll.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the conflict.
“While acknowledging that the ... government is facing a wave of attacks, we are very worried that the current arrests and repression stem from a willingness for reprisals and revenge,” Amnesty West Africa researcher Gaetan Mootoo said.
Ivory Coast’s government rejected the accusations made in a statement released by Amnesty on Friday.
“These are not at all the practices of our government. We do things legally,” government spokesman Bruno Kone told Reuters.
“There have been attacks, and it is our mission to protect Ivorian citizens and stop this. This is what we are doing,” he said.
Leading members of Gbagbo’s FPI political party who have remained in Ivory Coast deny being involved in the violence and complain that Ouattara’s government is using the attacks as an excuse for a crackdown on the opposition.
Two of the FPI’s top officials have been arrested, and the party says dozens of rank-and-file members have been rounded up.
Amnesty researchers identified detention sites, including a military barracks in the commercial capital Abidjan, where those arrested were brought and often held incommunicado.
“We were able to meet dozens of detainees who told us how they have been tortured by electricity or had molten plastic poured on their bodies. Two of them have been sexually abused,” Mootoo said.
Serge Herve Kribie, who was arrested by the army in the town of San Pedro on August 21, was stripped naked, tied to a pole, and subjected to electric shocks, Amnesty said. He died a few hours later, the group said.
A police officer also died as a result of torture, the researchers said.
Some detainees have been held for months with no contact to their families or lawyers, Amnesty said. Others have been held for ransom by security personnel who released them in exchange for cash, it said.
“More than 18 months after the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo in April 2011, it’s high time for President Alassane Dramane Ouattara to go beyond promises and put the respect of human rights at the top of his government’s agenda,” Amnesty said.
Reporting By Joe Bavier; Editing by Pravin Char