Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Ivory Coast’s opposition leader, Pascal Affi N’guessan, and others who were arrested days after the constitutional court confirmed President Alassane Ouattara’s re-election.
Mr N’Guessan is facing charges of terrorism and sedition after rejecting President Ouattara’s election win for a third term and announcing the establishment of a parallel government.
The rights group, in a statement on Monday, also said several human rights abuses were committed before and after the electoral period, including attacks on demonstrators by people armed with machetes and guns.
President Ouattara last week held talks his main rival, Henri Konan Bédié, in the commercial hub of Abidjan to make peace in the country after weeks of violence over a disputed presidential election.
After the meeting the opposition said no dialogue would proceed unless all those arrested over election protests are freed.
Officially 85 people died while 484 were wounded in the electoral crisis.
The statement read in part, “Amnesty International has also documented the arrests of dozens of opposition members around the election. This follows a call from the opposition for civil disobedience, a boycott of the election, the establishment of a National Transition Council and the rejection of President Alassane Ouattara’s re-election.
“Opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan was arrested and detained incommunicado from the evening of the 6 to 9 of November, during which period neither his family nor his lawyer had access to him. N’Guessan said he did not see the light of day for 60 hours. There are 30 charges against him including “attack and conspiracy against the state authority, murder and act of terrorism.”
“His lawyer only managed to see N’Guessan during his appearance in front of the judge on 9 November. Since then, neither the lawyer nor N’Guessan’s family was able to communicate with him. N’Guessan’s whereabouts cannot be confirmed. The authorities must allow him to communicate with his lawyer.
“On 3 November, 21 people were arbitrarily arrested at veteran opposition leader Henri Konan Bédié’s house, five of whom are still in detention. They include Maurice Guikahué, deputy leader of Côte d’Ivoire Democratic Party (PDCI in French), senators Seri Bi N’Guessan, Bassy Koffi Bernard, and Henri Konan Bédié’s chief of staff Narcisse N’dri Kouadio.
“They are facing 16 charges, including “attack and conspiracy against state authority”. Security forces are still stationed around the houses of former Minister Hubert Oulaye and that of Pascal Affi N’Guessan, preventing any person to enter or leave the buildings. Amnesty International considers this as an arbitrary restriction on the right to freedom of movement of all people inside the houses.
“This wave of arrests of political opponents follows another series of arrests earlier this year. In August, Amnesty International reported a wave of arrests of political dissidents. Between 13 August and 25 October, at least 41 people were arrested in Abdijan, Korogho, Toumodi and Alepe while protesting or after calling on people to protest.
“This includes five members of the opposition party, GPS, who were arrested on 13 August while on their way to a protest, and Pulchérie Edith Gbalet, coordinator of the NGO Alternatives Citoyennes (ACI), who was arrested on 15 August in the hotel where she was residing along with two collaborators after she called on people to protest against Ouattara’s third term.
“The growing crackdown on opposition leaders and government critics is an attack on human rights. Authorities must stop restricting the right to freedom of movement of people inside the residence of opposition leaders by removing security forces surrounding them,” said Samira Daoud.
“They must immediately and unconditionally release Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and all those detained simply for exercising their human rights. They must commit to creating a space where people can freely express their opinions and peacefully protest without fear of being arrested, assaulted or killed.”
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