Dozens of Gbagbo supporters held in Ivory Coast: Amnesty

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Amnesty International on Wednesday denounced the detention without charge of dozens of supporters of ex-Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo and said it was "troubled" by the nearby presence of UN soldiers.

The rights group accused forces loyal to current president Alassane Outtara of detaining at least 50 people, including Gbagbo and his wife Simone, without charge and claimed UN forces watched on as detainees were beaten on arrest.

"The presence of UN soldiers at the hotel where the perceived supporters of Laurent Gbagbo are being arbitrarily held raises troubling questions," Veronique Aubert, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Africa, said in a statement.

"This is hardly a promising start to Alassane Ouattara's presidency," she added.

Among the detainees are "several high-profile Ivorian politicians" and at least 21 Gbagbo supporters are being held at the Pergola Hotel in Abidjan, the economic capital, Amnesty said.

The NGO added that "a number of those detained at the hotel were beaten by the FRCI, forces loyal to Ouattara, at the time of their arrest, at least one severely enough to lose consciousness.

"French and United Nations Operation in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI) soldiers were present during the detainees' arrest and transfer to the hotel, but did not intervene to prevent the ill-treatment," claimed Amnesty.

Ivorian security forces are responsible for security within the hotel, but UNOCI soldiers are also present to enforce security along the building's external perimeter, according to the charity's information.

"UNOCI officials must ensure that UN soldiers and police are only involved in detentions that conform to international human rights standards," Aubert said.

Gbagbo, his wife, and more of his backers are being held in the north of the country, two months after the former leader lost power in a bloody post-election struggle.

Aubert urged government officials to "promptly charge all detainees with a recognizable criminal offence, or else release them immediately."

The west African country was wracked by violence after Gbagbo, who was in power for 10 years, refused to acknowledge in November 2010 that he had lost a presidential election to one-time prime minister Ouattara.

Fighting broke out in districts of Abidjan and in the volatile west of the country.

Gbagbo was captured in an underground bunker in Abidjan on April 11 by forces loyal to Ouattara, backed by France and the UN.

The Ivorian authorities have given a toll for the post-electoral period of about 3,000 people killed.

© 2011 AFP

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