What is the cost and risk of nonaggression?

On his blog Chris Blattman wisely raises the issue that if you are going to argue against aggression/intervention to remove Gbagbo or other dictators by saying  – like Bill Easterly – that an intervention is a risky endeavour with unknown and potentially disastrous consequences, then at least you have to argue for an alternative and ask yourself what the cost and risk of nonaggression is?

So to look a bit closer at the “do nothing” alternative, I’ve put together excerpts from human rights reports about the Ivory Coast from the time since the second round.  Human rights abuses committed by Gbagbo’s regime (and to a lesser extent rebel forces) may increase or decrease in a non-intervention scenario, but what has happened so far can form some sort of baseline.

It’s pretty heavy reading, but well, here we go:



Amnesty report 17 December 2010

Eyewitnesses have told Amnesty International that protestors seriously injured during yesterday’s mass protests in the Côte d’Ivoire city of Abidjan were denied medical treatment amid threats from security forces.

Media reports said that up to 30 people were killed on 16 December as Ivorian security forces opened fire on unarmed protestors who had taken to the streets in an attempt to break the political deadlock that has followed the country’s disputed presidential election on 28 November. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International they had seen 10 people killed during the violence.

“Amnesty International unequivocally condemns this brutal and unjustified behaviour,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.

“The Ivorian security forces continue to behave deplorably, firing on unarmed protesters, denying them medial care and threatening medical personnel. Those responsible must account for their actions.”

Medical staff working at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Cocody area of Abidjan, told Amnesty International by telephone that at 10 am Thursday morning they received orders from hospital management to stop treating wounded protesters.

At that time, there were six seriously wounded people waiting for treatment. Two of them required surgical procedures; one had a bullet in his back, the other a broken thigh. As of 4pm on Thursday 16 December neither had received any treatment and Amnesty International has been unable to verify if they have subsequently received medical care.

At around 11.30am Thursday, medical staff told Amnesty International that some gendarmes (paramilitary forces) had arrived at the hospital and threatened several doctors. Many of the staff fled and some are remain in hiding.



Amnesty Report 2 December 2010

Amnesty International has condemned an armed raid led by a paramilitary force (gendarmerie) on an opposition party headquarters in the city of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire on 1 December, which left at least four people dead and several wounded.

The raid happened at the offices of the Rally of Republicans (RDR), the party of Alassane Ouattara, a presidential candidate in last Sunday’s election. More than 10 people were arrested during the attack in the Yopougon neighbourhood of Abidjan. The whereabouts of those arrested are unknown.

“If the authorities do not condemn this attack and bring those responsible to justice, it will be a sign that they condone this very serious human rights violation,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s West African researcher.

An eyewitness wounded during the attack, who did not want to be named, told Amnesty International:

“It was around 10 pm, we were watching TV, some of us were drinking tea when we heard knocking on the door. We did not open because of the curfew and we were told: Open the door or we’ll climb the walls and kill you all. Then we saw gendarmes in uniform and people in plainclothes that climbed the walls and began to shoot at us. Some of the gendarmes were wearing red caps, others were hooded”.

Another eyewitness said: “When I saw the gendarmes, I went to the toilet to hide. They broke the door and asked me to raise my hands and lie on the floor. When I was on the floor, they shot at me and hit me at the leg. They left me for dead.”

According to eyewitness accounts, at least two of those killed were shot by the paramilitary force while trying to flee the headquarters by climbing the fence.



Reuters report 13 January 2011

Pillay told Reuters in Geneva about reports of a third mass grave in Ivory Coast that is off-limits to U.N. personnel.

“I am very concerned now that a third mass grave has been discovered,” she said. “Not only my representative there but the U.N. representative has not been allowed access to the mass graves.”

The United Nations suspects many of the dead were killed by pro-Gbagbo security forces or allied militias in night-time raids on neighborhoods, with hundreds more abducted.



United Nations Press Release 15 January 2011

“We have credible accounts of grave human rights violations,” Mr. Ban told the news conference. “Apart from the blockade of the Golf Hotel and the attempt to constrict supplies to the UN mission – in itself unacceptable – we have concrete intelligence that the former president and those around him are inciting their followers to violence, both against the UN and their own countrymen.”



IRIN News 7 January 2011

Gbagbo’s supporters says the human rights reporting has been biased, arguing that the focus has been too much on Abidjan, with not nearly enough monitoring of excesses in territory of the former rebel Forces Nouvelles. HRW has acknowledged difficulties in monitoring abuses carried out in such areas, but has emphasised that “the long history of grave human rights abuses by Forces Nouvelles (FN) soldiers against the civilian population demands immediate attention”, noting also “worrying reports” from refugees heading into Liberia of FN soldiers targeting alleged Gbagbo supporters.



IRIN News 7 January 2011

Tidjane Touré, 34, a student at Abidjan’s Cocody University, says he hasn’t returned to campus since participating in a march the opposition called on 16 December.

“Everybody knows I was at the march. Today one political party is arming its supporters to fight against the other, so you have to watch your words. The policemen abducting people from their houses at night don’t know their victims. It’s someone near you who knows your opinion that leads them to your house. So there is fear, even amongst those we have known all our lives.”



Human Rights Watch 23 December 2010

Security forces associated with Laurent Gbagbo are abducting and “disappearing” his rival’s supporters, Human Rights Watch said today, citing statements from numerous witnesses

Human Rights Watch has spoken with families and neighbors in pro-Ouattara neighborhoods of Abidjan, the country’s economic capital. These witnesses said that a combination of pro-Gbagbo security forces and unofficial militia have conducted nightly raids since December 16, 2010, dragging people away in official vehicles and taking them to undisclosed locations. Many of the abducted remain missing, and the security forces are refusing to reveal their whereabouts. Several witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch had come across bodies with bullet wounds of those arrested or abducted, leading to strong fears of extrajudicial executions.



Radio France Internationale 18 December 2010 [In French (I’m too tired to translate)]

Ecoutez le témoignage de Wognié Koua le responsable des jeunes du RHDP pour le département de Grand Bassam, joint en fin de matinée par RFI:

« Les arrestations ont commencé ce matin, aux environs de six heures. Des éléments de la police, en tous cas ils sont habillés en treillis, avec des casques, et ils interviennent dans des maisons ciblées. Ceux qui sont ciblés, c’est nous ! C’est les militants de la RHDP. Les responsables de la majorité présidentielle qui sont à Bassam, ils nous connaissent bien. Ils ont dressé une liste qu’ils ont donnée aux policiers. Et comme [les policiers] ils ne connaissent pas leur coup, c’est eux qui sont devant et ils indiquent la maison des gens. C’est, depuis hier, mais en tout cas c’est depuis ce matin que cela s’est aggravé, raconte Wognié Koua. Alors ils ont pris quatre jeunes. Cela a été une course poursuite, jusqu’à ce que la foule soit massée devant le commissariat. Ils ont violenté des femmes et ils ont mis des femmes à nu. Et ils ont même dit qu’ils allaient les violer ».



Radio France Internationale 19 December 2010

In an audio clip Adja from Grand Bassam is interviewed by a reporter from RFI:

They come to peoples homes. abduct the youth, and beat them. The women of Bassam went out to demonstrate for the liberation of the youth. We weren’t armed, we just wanted that they release the youths they had taken hostage. We didn’t have any weapons, we were defenseless, but they were armed. When they saw us they started shooting at us,they used tear gas.  There were many wounded, even old ladies. There was a 60 year old lady that was beaten just in front of me until she started bleeding. They took off women their clothes. It’s very serious. […]  It’s getting worse Madame, that’s why I am afraid, very afraid.  [RFI Reporter] What is it you are afraid of?  [Adja] Of those in charge of the country. I am afraid of them. The military, it seems they have the country in their hands.



Amnesty Report 2 January 2011

“People are living in fear of being shot, arrested or abducted by the security forces or militias close to Laurent Gbagbo,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa program director.

Amnesty International has received reports of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, abductions and forced disappearances, mainly committed by the security forces and militias loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who the UN has said lost the election but has refused to hand over power.



Amnesty Repoort 5 January 2011

One person was killed, 16 wounded and 63 arrested by several dozen security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, in a 5:00 am raid yesterday of the Abidjan headquarters of the PDCI.

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that security forces fired live bullets at those inside the building and  while several people were beaten.

“Some of us were praying when we heard security forces enter the room,” said one female eyewitness.  “They looked everywhere and found nothing. Then they asked some of our young leaders to leave the room and accompany them outside where they were beaten with clubs. Some people protested, and security forces entered. I went to hide myself in a corner and saw security forces throwing tear grenades in the room and firing at us”.

On party member, Karim Sidibé, was killed as a result of the gunfire. A person who was beside him, who cannot be identified for security reasons, said: “They fired point blank at us, they hit me on the foot and hit Karim on the stomach. The bullet went through him. I went to see him but he was already dead”.

Amnesty International received a credible report this morning that none of the wounded people detained during the raid had yet received medical treatment.


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