What’s fate of 41 Ivorian dissident suspects since their return?
Human Rights Watch (HWR) has called on authorities in Ivory Coast to ensure that the 41 suspected Ivorian dissidents extradited from Liberia on June 23 are given the due process of law, access to lawyer and that their rights are respected.
Quite a lot of international and local media publicity was given the recent move by Liberia to extradite the 41 men, in the aftermath of recent cross border raids in the Ivorian border town of Tai. The raids left 10 civilians dead along with 7 UN peacekeeping soldiers from Niger.
The suspected dissidents, who had been in prison in southeastern Liberia since the capture of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo in April last year, were handed over to Ivorian authorities some two weeks ago, on June 23.
Family members of some of the 41 suspected Ivorian dissidents expressed fear for their safety and said they would preferred they be tried in Liberia rather than Ivory Coast. A female family member told reporters that their extradition amounted to “death sentence”.
But since their handover, little or nothing has been heard about exactly where they are being held, their conditions or whether they have been formally charged.
“We know that they have been held at the main civilian prison. It was just today that there have been a report in some of the local newspapers that some of them may have been transferred but to our knowledge over the last several weeks, they have been held at the main civilian prison in Abidjan,” Matt Wells, Human Rights West Africa Researcher told West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) on Friday.
Wells told WADR that the rights group got reports that after their return, the 41 were taken before a magistrate, but this is yet to be confirmed.
Access to them by human rights groups in the Ivory Coast is said to be extremely difficult.
“It’s crucial that the Ivorian authorities show that these people will receive a fair trial,” the HRW’s West Africa Researcher stressed.
WADR’s Frank Sainworla interviews Matt Wells of HRW on whether the group was keeping track of the fate of the suspected Ivorian dissidents extradited by Liberia.
Click audio below to listen