Amnesty International, in a statement issued on Friday, January 10, has called on Côte d’Ivoire government to uphold the right to fair trial of opposition members and their relatives arrested over the last two weeks and to ensure they have access to their lawyers and medical assistance.
Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, authorities in Côte d’Ivoire have arrested a number of opposition figures and their relatives. Among the most high profile is Rigobert Soro, a police officer and brother of the presidential candidate Guillaume Soro who has been subjected to enforced disappearance since December 30, 2019.
Also arrested was Dahafolo Koné, an aide to Soro’s lawyer, who have been held without charge and access to a lawyer since December 27. He was receiving treatment for a life-threatening condition and requires medical attention.
They are among 17 people related to the opposition in detention following a wave of arrests which took place between December 23 and 31 in Abidjan. Thirteen have been charged with ‘publishing false news, undermining public order and the authority of the state’. While they are in detention, security forces have searched several of their houses without warrants.
“The authorities must immediately reveal the fate and whereabouts of Rigobert Soro. They should ensure all detainees have access to a lawyer, medical assistance and allow their families to visit them. Subjecting people to enforced disappearance and preventing detainees to access their lawyers are gross human rights violations and a brazen attempt to intimidate opposition voices,” said Francois Patuel, Amnesty International West Africa Researcher.
Rigobert Soro is reported to have been arrested at the National School of Police where he was summoned on December 30 and detained at Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST in French) but authorities have refused to acknowledge his detention. Dahafolo Koné was arrested on December 27 is detained at the Agban Gendarmerie Camp.
Guillaume Soro, a former ally of President Alassanev Ouattara, is the leader of the Générations Et Peuples Solidaires political party (GPS in French). He had announced his candidacy for October’s presidential election and was returning to Abidjan when the Prosecutor issued a statement announcing an arrest warrant against him on December 23.
He was charged with attempts to undermine the authority of the state and territorial integrity. In a separate case he was also charged for misappropriation of public funds, concealment of misappropriated public funds and money laundering.
As Soro’s flight was rerouted, his supporters decided to organize a press conference on December 23, 2019 at the GPS headquarters. Security forces stormed the venue, arrested them and brought them to the DST, a non-official detention centre where they were questioned without their lawyers.
Among those arrested and still in detention are five members of the parliament and GPS leaders: Alain Lobognon, Soro Kanigui, Kando Soumahoro, Yao Soumaïla, and Camara Loukimane.
The houses of several detainees, including the home of Rigobert Soro, were searched between December 26 and 31 without warrants by security forces. The home of the lawyer and Soro supporter Affoussiata Bamba Lamine was also searched in her absence, without presenting a warrant, and while no formal legal proceedings have been brought against her.
“As the 2020 presidential election approaches, the authorities must uphold the independence of the judiciary and refrain from using the criminal justice to persecute opposition leaders and critics,” said Patuel. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)