HRW wants probe into I Coast militia boss

2013-05-22 12:02

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Abidjan - Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Ivory Coast authorities to carry out a "credible investigation" of a militia chief whom rights groups suspect of playing a key role in deadly post-election violence in 2011.

"What happens next with Amade Oueremi will be telling," HRW West Africa researcher Matt Wells said in a statement.

The group said Oueremi, the head of an armed group that has occupied the Mont Peko forest in western Ivory Coast for years, fought alongside forces backing President Alassane Ouattara to try to force ex-president Laurent Gbagbo to step down after losing elections.

Rights groups suspect Oueremi, who is of Burkinabe origin, of involvement in the March 2011 massacre of hundreds of pro-Gbagbo people in western Duekoue.

He was arrested after surrendering to the Ivorian army on Saturday.

"A credible investigation and, evidence permitting, prosecution would help heal the deep communal divisions in western Ivory Coast and show that justice may finally be available to victims on both sides," Wells said.

"People suspected of serious international crimes shouldn't get a free pass just because they are linked to the government in power," he said.

From his forest stronghold, Oueremi and his men have defied the authority of the state for a decade in a region rich in cocoa, of which Ivory Coast is the world's top producer.

The government has been concerned about the occupation as it tries to bring security to the west of the country.

"It was not clear whether Oueremi's detention was linked to possible grave crimes during the crisis or a result of his refusal to leave the protected forest region of Mont Peko," the group said.

It also said the government has made "little progress in addressing root causes of the country's decade of politico-military violence" since Ouattara took power two years ago, noting that only Gbagbo supporters have so far been charged with suspected crimes committed during the four-month crisis in which some 3 000 people died.

Read more on:    human rights watch  |  alassane ouattara  |  laurent gbagbo  |  ivory coast  |  west africa

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