Freedom House Welcomes Gbagbo’s Arrest in Côte d’Ivoire, Calls for End to Conflict
Freedom House welcomes the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo and hopes that it will put an end to the violence that has besieged Côte d’Ivoire and claimed hundreds of civilian lives.
On Monday, forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized president, stormed Gbagbo’s residence as French forces patrolled the perimeter of the grounds. Gbagbo, who was found with his wife and son, surrendered and is being held in custody at the Golf Hotel where Ouattara has temporarily set up his government. According to Youssoufou Bamba, Ouattara’s representative to the UN, Gbagbo is alive and “will be brought to justice.”
“After months of violence and unrest, we are hopeful that the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire will finally come to an end and the country can begin to regroup and rebuild under the leadership of its democratically elected president, Alassane Ouattara,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Freedom House welcomes Gbagbo’s arrest and hopes it serves as a signal that the international community will no longer tolerate the actions of strongmen who seek to maintain power by thwarting the democratic process.”
Gbagbo had refused to accept defeat to Ouattara in the November elections and sought to maintain control over the country through military force. Early last week, UN peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire joined French troops in bombarding Gbagbo’s weapons arsenal in order to prevent further attacks on civilians. On Sunday, UN and French troops began concentrating rocket fire on the Presidential Palace and Gbagbo’s residence.
Freedom House strongly condemns all violence against civilians and calls on the Ouattara government to hold individuals responsible for human rights abuses during the conflict accountable, including credible reports of abuses by supporters of Ouattara.
Côte d’Ivoire is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.