French army 'used excessive force in Ivory Coast'

26th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 26 (AFP) - French troops deployed in the west African state of Ivory Coast made disproportionate use of lethal force during the past year, according to a report released on Wednesday by the French section of Amnesty International.

PARIS, Oct 26 (AFP) - French troops deployed in the west African state of Ivory Coast made disproportionate use of lethal force during the past year, according to a report released on Wednesday by the French section of Amnesty International.

In a wide-ranging report, which urged all sides to work harder to prevent a resumption of hostilities in the three-year conflict, Amnesty faulted the behaviour of French peacekeeping forces during clashes in the main city Abidjan in November 2004.

French troops, "on certain occasions, made an excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force, faced with demonstrators who were not a direct threat to their lives or those of other people," it said.

Several people were killed and hundreds injured in the clashes, which opposed French forces to militants loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo.

Pro-Gbagbo "Young Patriots" were held responsible for several days of looting and violence that gripped the city, forcing some 8,000 Westerners -- most of them French -- to flee the former French colony.

Amnesty urged all foreign forces in the country to "make sure that soldiers can keep demonstrations under control without resorting to lethal force, unless their lives or those of others are clearly at risk."

A 4,000-strong French force, supported by UN troops, was deployed in Ivory Coast after a failed coup sparked months of civil war in September 2002.

The report comes a week after the Frenchman who led the force from May 2004 to June this year, General Henri Poncet, was suspended, reportedly because he is thought to have approved a false report on an illegal killing by his men.

Split between rebel north and the loyalist south, Ivory Coast remains riven by political tensions that threaten to explode after the October 30 deadline.

The UN Security Council last week endorsed a decision by the African Union to maintain Gbagbo in his post for 12 months, giving the country another year to wrap up a long-overdue disarmament campaign and implement a host of political reforms.

In its report, Amnesty appealed to all sides in the conflict -- Gbagbo as well as the rebel New Forces who control the north of the country -- to do "everything possible to avoid further serious breaches of human rights."

Of particular concern was "the spread of light weapons and possible weapons deliveries to both sides," in spite of a UN arms embargo imposed last November.

Amnesty demanded that New Forces fighters "refrain from committing atrocities, including arbitrary killings" and rapes, and put an end to the recruitment of child soldiers.

It also raised the alarm over incitement to racial hatred by pro-Gbagbo politicians and media, which it warned could spark massacres against west African immigrants in remote parts of the country.

Finally, Amnesty urged the international community to step up its efforts to enforce a succession of Security Council resolutions aimed at ending the conflict in Ivory Coast.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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