Rights group accuses Gbagbo supporters of imposing ''reign of terror''

New York, US (PANA) - A report released by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wednesday has accused the security forces and militias supporting incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo of imposing a reign of terror against his real or perceived opponents in Abidjan.

''The international community must do all it can to protect civilians and increase pressure on Gbagbo and his allies to end this organized campaign of violence,'' the report said.
It said since late November 2010, the security forces and militias have committed extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and rape.

''An in-depth investigation into violations in the commercial capital, Abidjan, revealed an often-organized campaign of violence targeting members of opposition political parties, ethnic groups from northern Côte d'Ivoire, Muslims, and immigrants from neighboring West African
countries,'' HRW said.

Gbagbo has refused to step down despite the massive international support for his opponent in the 28 Nov. presidential runoff, Alassane Ouattara, widely believed to have won the election.

The regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has threatened to use force to remove Gbagbo if he fails to relinquish power.

An ECOWAS delegation was due to meet US officials Wednesday as it seeks international backing for a possible use of force, which could be in form of a naval blockade, against Gbagbo.

The UN said some 260 people have been killed and thousands forced to flee to neighbouring countries since the post-election crisis started, threatening a repeat of the 2002/2003 civil war in the world's top cocoa producer and exporter.

HRW said its researchers spoke with more than 100 victims of, and witnesses to, the violence, including killings by militiamen with bricks and clubs, and sexual assaults in front of family members.

''Witnesses described seeing family members or neighbors dragged from their homes, mosques, restaurants, or the street into waiting vehicles,' the report said.
-0- PANA SEG 26Jan2011

26 january 2011 13:49:48

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