UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s ousted strongman Laurent Gbagbo has been treated well, unlike his wife and son, who were beaten up after their arrest this week by opposition forces, the U.N. peacekeeping said on Friday.
The three were arrested on Monday after U.N. and French forces attacked the presidential residence in Abidjan to neutralize Gbagbo’s heavy weapons, which the United Nations said were threatening civilians and peacekeepers.
Gbagbo’s surrender ended a months-long standoff that had reignited a civil war.
“President Gbagbo himself so far has not suffered any bad treatment,” U.N. under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations Alain Le Roy told reporters. “While coming to the Golf Hotel, his wife has been beaten in some way.”
He said Gbagbo’s son, Michel, was also roughed up while being brought to the Golf Hotel by forces loyal to presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.
Ouattara, who defeated Gbagbo in a November 28 election, has been living in the Golf Hotel since the vote.
Another case that Le Roy said “is to be deplored” was the death of the general secretary of Gbagbo’s presidency, Desire Tagro, who had been shot in the face. U.N. peacekeepers brought Tagro to a hospital and tried to help treat him.
“We were unable to prevent his death,” Le Roy said.
Le Roy said Ouattara, whose forces are guarding Gbagbo, has permitted U.N peacekeepers to remain “just outside,” the area where he is being held under house arrest.
“We are just immediately outside to ensure his security is correct,” Le Roy said, adding that if they suspected Gbagbo or his family were being badly treated, the U.N. force would complain.
“So far we have the commitment from President Ouattara that he and his family, despite what happened in the first hour, would be treated in a correct manner,” he said.
Gbagbo’s adviser in Paris, Toussaint Alain, told Reuters he was concerned about Gbagbo’s life. “We have no sign of life from him and we are worried,” he said. “There is a rumor of suicide making the rounds in the army.”
Ouattara has said Gbagbo will be prosecuted and put on trial. Both Gbagbo’s and Ouattara’s troops have been accused by human rights groups of killing civilians and committing other atrocities during the conflict that erupted after the disputed election.
Le Roy rejected suggestions by Russian, South African and other diplomats that the U.N. peacekeeping force had been “taking sides” in Ivory Coast and was not impartial.
He said the U.N. force was carrying out its mandate to protect civilians and destroy Gbagbo’s heavy weapons in an manner. When Gbagbo’s forces shelled Ouattara’s hotel last weekend, U.N. peacekeepers had no choice but respond, he said.
Forces loyal to Gbagbo also had targeted U.N. troops, after Gbagbo ordered them out of Ivory Coast last year. The United Nations, which recognized Ouattara as the president-elect, ignored Gbagbo’s order to withdraw.
A total of 44 U.N. staff had died in a period of 10 days from March 30 to April in Ivory Coast, Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of the Congo, Le Roy said.
Additional reporting by Paris bureau; editing by Christopher Wilson