Abuses by Pro-Ouattara Groups on the Agenda

This was the last day of Aurélie Fuchs’s interrogation. The former volunteer with the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was questioned by Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé’s defense lawyers about alleged abuses by the Invisible Commando.

Did UNOCI’s Human Rights Division investigate human rights violations committed by pro-Ouattara groups? This was what the defense wanted to know at the hearing on Wednesday, September 21. Aurélie Fuchs, a volunteer of the UN mission during the Ivorian post-electoral crisis, mentioned several field investigations relating to such incidents.

The human rights volunteer, in particular, talked about one of her missions at Anonkoua Kouté. She mentioned a “completely deserted village” on arrival, with the exception of “four octogenarians  and young people…affiliated with the Invisible Commando,” armed with AK47 and knives, as well as “Dozos” wearing amulets and traditional clothes. The fact that the village was deserted was “all the more surprising” said the witness, because UNOCI had previously been informed of the presence of 2,000 people, who had sought refuge at the St. Matthew parish.  According to Fuchs, these were internally displaced persons from the PK18 neighborhood and Anyama, “Ebrié’s” who had fled for fear of abuses.

“Were they running away from the pro-Ouattara [forces]?” asked Emmanuel Altit, the lead counsel for Laurent Gbagbo.

“If one can call them that, yes,” replied the former United Nations volunteer. Afterwards, the witness knew “that some of these people had sought refuge in another parish,” but did not know “where the others went to.” She had heard allegations that people had been burned in a container. Fuchs searched this container but found “no traces of human remains” inside. The witness admitted she did not know whether UNOCI continued their investigation to discover what had become of the missing people.

A UNOCI report cites abuses by the pro-Ouattara

Another mission by the UNOCI Human Rights Division following allegations of abuse committed by the pro-Ouattara forces was a survey conducted in the western part of the country. Fuchs was not involved in this mission, but she said he had read the report on this mission, which mentioned human rights violations committed by the Armed Forces of the New Forces (FAFN). In this report “Losseni Fofana” was mentioned in the words of the witness. The victims of these abuses? The “pro-Gbagbo people” or those “identified as such because of their ethnicity,” stated the UN employee.

Jean-Serge Gbougnon, Charles Blé Goudé’s lawyer, then questioned Fuchs on the credibility of the evidence gathered during her field missions, in particular, the March 10 mission that took place a week after the Abobo women’s march, in which several people reported that the defense and security forces had fired on the crowd.

The Human Rights Advisor said that on arrival she saw a scene that looked like it “remained as it was” since the incident, with sandals strewn on the side of the road.

“Doesn’t this look like a doctored scene? ” the counsel asked before being reproached by the Presiding Judge who wanted “facts.”  Blé Goudé’s lawyer therefore questioned Fuchs on the credibility of comments gathered on that day, while armed members of the Invisible Commando were not far away. “They were a little far away,” the Human Rights Advisor explained.

Before the witness left the courtroom, the defense had  a few remaining questions about a meeting between Fuchs and Blé Goudé in 2014, before the accused was transferred to the International Criminal Court. He allegedly told her about his conditions of detention as being “not respectful of human dignity,” citing solitary confinement, hygiene, and food problems.