AND WAR CRIMES
predicted, the unfolding drama in this once-upon-a-time oasis of
stability in the West African sub-region is going to present quite a
tough nut to ECOWAS peace mediators. It would appear that with each
softening up of the previous hard line stance of the Gbagbo government,
the rebels thrust in more of their demands in the hope that at the end
of the day, they would have achieved what they originally set out to do
- having a government of their choice in power.
rebels should have pushed up their demands when all appeared to have
been going well in the effort to bring both sides to an agreeable
settlement should not come as any surprise to watchers of crisis and
conflicts in the sub-region. It has been standard fare on the menu of
the kind of diplomacy that has been favoured by the Abidjan authorities
even as they "mediated" between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of
Sierra Leone and the government.
Herald had in a previous issue highlighted similarities between
demands of the rebels and those of the RUF. It is to be recalled that
Sam Bockarie, the chief executioner of the RUF terror machine had never
publicly called for the resignation of President Tejan Kabbah and did
that for the first time in 1999 in a BBC interview when ECOWAS and other
international concerns realised the toll in human lives and misery after
that incursion by the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil. And one need not
forget that Eyadema, Togo's dinosaur "President for Life" was also
involved in those crucial negotiations. They had wanted Blaise Campaore
to chair such a meeting, but he would have stayed put knowing that the
Nigerians and indeed the other countries had an idea of his role in
turning the sub-region into a killing field!!
from the negotiating table have suggested that despite what had been
hailed as progress in maintaining the thin line that separates the two
forces, the rebels demand that the elected government should resign and
that fresh elections must be held again gives the game away. Some
interests somewhere just do not like the continuation of the Gbagbo
government and would use any means to achieve this. These are the forces
that are behind the hastily arranged label of convenience called the
Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire and given a reading of the situation
are to be found outside the boundaries of the country as well as within.
It is left to the imagination of the kind of scenario that would emerge
should fresh elections be held that are won by Gbagbo. Claims of rigging
would not be far off until the rebels see their own man in power!!
peace brokers try to assuage the fears of the rebels by the granting of
an amnesty that gives them a blanket pardon for what they could have
done, ECOWAS, and indeed the international community must be aware that
such amnesties must not in any way send signals to would-be coup makers
and hell raisers that they could always get away with the murder and
mayhem visited upon the civilian population. And that is why the Sierra
Herald would continue to call for those alleged to have committed human
rights violations to be brought to justice.
Robertson QC and other human rights lawyers have noted the obligation of
other states in enforcing international law even where blanket amnesties
are used as weapons of convenience and subterfuge. Robertson in his
book, "Crimes Against Humanity -the struggle for global justice" has
If perpetrators of crimes against humanity cannot be prosecuted or
even sued for damages in their home state - because they remain in
power or have been granted amnesties - then a secondary duty may
devolve upon another state to bring or permit proceedings should
they come within its jurisdiction, on the principle that "crimes
against international law may be punished by any state which obtains
custody of persons suspected of responsibility.
granting of blanket amnesties would appear to provide the safe corridors
strode by human rights violators, allowing potential abusers not to bat
an eyelid in committing atrocities against perceived enemies.
rights observers must now be allowed into rebel-held areas to document
what appears to be on-going violations and desperate cover-up operations
aimed at "wiping out" bits and pieces of evidence. There had been
reports of both sides hunting for perceived supporters of the adversary
and subjecting them to abuses that include rape, torture and summary
executions. The evil that could be lurking in areas under the control of
the rebels could be imagined given reports that men and youths within
rebel territory are no longer allowed to leave fuelling speculations
that forceful conscription has become one of the rules under the rebels.
reports of demonstrations being held in support of the rebels are bound
to be greeted with scepticism by Sierra Leoneans who suffered under the
AFRC/RUF coalition of evil. How these demonstrations in support of the
murderous junta were orchestrated could perhaps be best articulated by a
former Information minister in that regime who had been described by one
British newspaper as the "Goebbels of West Africa". The man, Mohamed
Bangura is thought to be holed up in south London basking in the glow of
human rights provisions in the laws of the United Kingdom. Sierra
Leoneans hope, that he and others of his type would one day be asked to
account for their deeds as the country struggles in coming to terms with
the enormity of the evil unleashed upon it.
rights representatives must also be allowed to document atrocities
committed by supporters of the government against foreigners and others
thought to be in support of the rebels. According to reports monitored
from the region, it has been difficult to get the true figures of
foreigners killed or maimed or to put a figure to the loss in assets.
Statements by President Gbagbo and his ministers urging their supporters
to target foreigners must be carefully studied by law makers to see if,
given the urgent security situation then, the government was out of
order in encouraging those attacks.
government has to be made aware also of the provisions within
international law which among other things, makes it an offence to
target any group of people because of their ethnic origin, political
leanings, religion or otherwise. From across the spectrum that takes in
the Courts in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, the international
community's rejection of crimes against groups/persons in an organised
manner are clearly defined and reports that people belonging to a
religious group are being hunted and killed should give rise to concerns
that serious human rights violations are being perpetrated in Cote
d'Ivoire and must be investigated.