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Ivory Coast: women, the 'forgotten victims'

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Ivory Coast: women, the 'forgotten victims'

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Gaetan Mootoo is a researcher for Amnesty International specialising in West Africa, and has just come back from several weeks in Ivory Coast.

Euronews reporter Francois Chignac spoke to him and asked: “As far as you are concerned, both sides are equally responsible for committing human rights violations in Ivory Coast. According to your assessment, the two sides have both indulged in particularly shocking violence in Ivory Coast.”

Gaetan Mootoo:
“Yes, since Alassane Ouattara was declared to have won the election, we have seen an increasing frequency in the violation of human rights. In some places, most notably in Abidjan, these violations take the form of summary executions of people thought to be Ouattara supporters. There are also reports of sexual attacks on women. We went to the west of Ivory Coast, to an area controlled by pro-Ouattara forces, to hear evidence of sexual violence against women allegedly carried out by one of the military commanders. This was not a rogue element of the Ouattara forces, but one of the men in charge who was said to be responsible.”

Euronews:
“Your hard-hitting report has found that women are particularly vulnerable to violence perpetrated by the two rival forces.”

Gaetan Mootoo:
“As far as we are concerned, since this conflict began back in 2002, women have been the forgotten victims. They have been at risk of rape and sexual assault from forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, from armed opposition forces and also from mercenaries of both sides. A doctor in one of the hospitals we went to in the West of the country estimated there were on average 25 to 35 rapes a day.”

Euronews:
“The women who find themselves the victims of attacks like this, can they rely on the police and courts for justice?”

Gaetan Mootoo:
“Often these women are not familiar with the machinery of the legal system. They do not know how to make a complaint.”

Euronews:
“Are they threatened? Are they threatened and intimidated if they make a complaint?”

Gaetan Mootoo:
“The reason they are reluctant to report the crime is because often the men who carry out these attacks are also the ones in charge. In the first instance, we want these women to be offered appropriate medical care and then we would also urge the authorities on both sides to issue clear guidelines stating that attacks on women will not be tolerated.”

Euronews:
“Ivory Coast is teetering on the brink of civil war. Thousands of refugees have already fled. The UN estimates at least 400 people have already been killed. As someone who knows the area well, how do you seen events panning out?”

Gaetan Mootoo:
“There has been a surge in violence since last week. Civilians have been caught up in this, some as they tried to flee their homes. For example, we worked on the case of one young man who was trying to find the right road out of the country but when he stopped to ask directions, he was attacked and then set on fire. He had run into a group of mercenaries who beat him and then hung a burning tyre around his neck.”