This past February 22 , as part of the litigation against President Gbagbo, the
ICC released a document, saying that the judges of the court allowed Prosecutor Ocampo to investigate the tragic events which have devastated the Ivory Coast since September 19, 2002, days of the
outbreak of armed rebellion led by Alassane Ouattara and Guillaume Soro.
What could be perceived initially as a victory for supporters of President
Gbagbo has quickly turned into deep disappointment. And for good reason. Looking through the document in question in paragraph 35, we read this: "In light of the limited informations provided by
the Prosecutor, the Chamber is Unable to Assess whether Crimes Against Humanity may also have Been committed by any of the rebel forces . "In other words, the judges say that based on information
provided by the prosecutor Ocampo, the Court judges have no legal basis allowing any Legal action of Ivorian rebels Ouattara and Soro.
According to Ocampo no evidence that they have committed those crimes against humanity since 2002. we believe in the good faith of Ocampo, that is why we
provide this document of Amnesty International, an organization not recognized as pro-Gbagbo. In this detailed document, Amnesty International shows the killings of 60 policemen and their
children taken prisoners by the rebels of Ouattara and Guillaume Soro in October 2002. Let's hope that this document will help the ICC make justice, and condemn the real culprits of the
massacres, namely Guillaume Soro, Alassane Ouattara, and their military chiefs.
Amnesty International 27 February 2003
At Bouaké, on 6 October 2002,
about 60 gendarmes, accompanied by about 50 of their children and some other civilians were arrested at their barracks by armed personnel of the Mouvement patriotique de Côte d’Ivoire (MPCI), Côte d’Ivoire Patriotic Movement, who had taken control of the country’s second
largest town on 19 September 2002. They were taken to the 3rd infantry battalion’s military camp prison. That same evening, MPCI armed personnel entered the prison several times and opened fire,
killing and wounding dozens of the prisoners. The survivors were left for two days among the wounded and the decomposing bodies, without being given any food. Some of them were forced to carry
the bodies out and bury them in mass graves, and a dozen of them were very probably killed on the site of the mass graves after they had buried their colleagues.
This information was gathered by an Amnesty International delegation from interviews with some of the
survivors of the massacre, during the course of a research mission to the area held by the MPCI, in December 2002. Their statements were later compared to the testimony of other survivors who had
been released and who had reached areas under government control.
Amnesty International did not at first make this information publicly available because such a step may
have endangered the lives of the gendarmes who witnessed the massacre and who remained in custody in Bouaké. All these gendarmes have since been released after having paid very large ransoms, and
Amnesty International can now report the details of this massacre as far as it has been able to reconstruct what happened.
THE MASSACRE OF GENDARMES AT BOUAKÉ IN OCTOBER 2002
News of the MPCI massacre of dozens of gendarmes at Bouaké, at the beginning of October
2002, quickly spread in the form of rumours or as categorical public statements made by the press close to the government in Abidjan. However, the absence of eye-witnesses
meant that few details were known about the exact circumstances of the massacre. The MPCI recognised that the gendarmes had been killed at the beginning of October 2002, but claimed they were
killed in combat between MPCI and government forces when the latter tried to recapture the town of Bouaké before being repelled on 5 and 6 October 2002. The MPCI communicated this same version of
events to the Amnesty International delegation visiting Bouaké in December 2002.
Using eye-witness accounts, and after a detailed investigation, Amnesty International has
been able to trace what happened in this massacre. The gendarmes arrested on 6 October 2002 at the 3rd gendarme legion headquarters in Bouaké were not killed in combat. Most of them were killed in cold blood by armed MPCI personnel while being held prisoner with about 50 of their children and some civilians in the 3rd infantry
battalion military camp prison in Bouaké. Moreover, some of them, including the wounded, were very probably killed on the site of the mass grave in which they were forced to bury their
colleagues. The survivors of the massacre were only saved thanks to an order given at the last moment by an MPCI officer. Finally, a dozen gendarmes, still detained in December 2002, were released after paying very high ransoms.
At Bouaké, during their research mission, the Amnesty International delegation formally asked
representatives of the military wing of the MPCI for permission to visit the mass graves where the gendarmes were buried. The MPCI authorities replied that they did not know the exact place of
the graves and that they only contained the bodies of gendarmes killed in combat.
Here, then, is a detailed chronological description of the massacre as reconstructed by Amnesty
International. For security reasons, the names of gendarmes who escaped the massacre are not divulged in this document because some of them received threats from the MPCI on their release.
a) The circumstances in which the
gendarmes were arrested on 6 October 2002
The capture of Bouaké by armed elements who later adopted the name of Mouvement
patriotique de Côte d’Ivoire (MPCI), Côte d’Ivoire Patriotic Movement, took all the security forces by surprise in this, the second largest city of Côte
One of the survivors of the Bouaké massacre told the Amnesty International delegation how the attack took he and
his colleagues by surprise:
“We heard shots around 3 or 4 in the morning of 19 September. We raised the
alarm signalling the need to protect the barracks from attack. We had learned from the radio that the “Zinzins” and the “Bahéfoués” had revolted (military personnel contracted by General Gueï in
the transition period had just learned they were about to be demobilised). We stayed on guard throughout 19 September, but we were not attacked. We stayed within the camp perimeter. On 20
September, some four wheel drive vehicles approached the perimeter wall and armed personnel on board these vehicles fired into the air. We did not respond because we did not have enough
ammunition. We decided to fly the white flag from the wall and to lay down our arms. We stayed in the barracks without a problem until 6 October, towards midday.”
All the gendarmes met by Amnesty International stated that the white flag was flying continuously above their
barracks and that they had no contact nor any problem with the MPCI during the first three weeks in which the town was occupied by the MPCI. Some gendarmes were even able to leave the barracks
freely to return to their homes in Bouaké and civilians, relatives and friends were able to visit the barracks.
This information, which shows that the gendarmes had no problems coexisting with the MPCI for three weeks,
was confirmed to the Amnesty International delegation in December 2002 by a senior MPCI officer in Bouaké. He confirmed that, “on the morning after we captured the
town, the gendarmes laid down their arms and we thought that we could coexist. Everything was going well until the attack on Bouaké by government forces on 6 October”.
On 6 October 2002, government troops launched an offensive to recapture the town of Bouaké. MPCI personnel
thought the attack had only been made possible thanks to “gendarmes that had infiltrated” the town. They therefore surrounded
the3rd legion barracks and arrested all the men there, about 60 gendarmes, accompanied by about 50 of their children aged above 12, and some civilians who happened to be
visiting relatives or friends in the barracks at that time.
Several gendarmes described to Amnesty International the circumstances in which they were arrested that
“On Sunday 6 October, between midday and 13.00 hours, we were preparing our meal
when the barracks was surrounded and the ‘rebels’ asked us to come out. They were firing all round the barracks. They told all the men to come out and so we went out, with our sons and the
civilians who were with us. The women stayed in the barracks and I don’t think they were harmed. The ‘rebels’ told us they had learned that Abidjan agents had infiltrated the group and they
wanted to check this information. Some of them accused us of being combatants sent by Abidjan. They therefore took us to the military camp.”
Another gendarme told us:
“I was in the barracks with my family. I was not wearing military uniform. I was
dressed like I am now (shorts and T-shirt). The ‘rebels’ arrived in 4 wheel drive vehicles on Sunday and surrounded the camp. They fired into the air and one of my colleagues went out to ask what
was happening. The ‘rebels’ replied that there were rumours that loyalists had infiltrated and they proceeded to carry out checks. We all came out of carrying white flags and they made us sit
down on the tarmac while they checked us.”
The 100 arrested and disarmed men were taken to the 3rd infantry battalion military camp about seven kilometres
away. Some prisoners were put into the vehicles, others were made to walk. One of the latter group told the Amnesty International delegation:
“We had to walk for more than an hour. We were booed by the people. Near the
police station, there was a group that shouted: ‘Cut their throats, kill them’. People also threw stones at us, some of which hit us.”
b) The massacre at the 3rd
infantry battalion military prison
On arrival at the 3rd infantry battalion military camp, the approximately 100 detainees were taken to the
camp prison. As the prison was relatively small (about eight metres long by five metres wide, with three small cells without electricity), most of the prisoners sat down in
the prison courtyard (see drawing). It was about 14.00 hours.
Drawing of the military prison where the gendarmes were held in
Although the massacre only began towards 20.00 hours, it was preceded by several
warnings, in which the MPCI personnel tried to justify their intended actions and torture the prisoners psychologically by telling them what they intended to do.
All the gendarmes met by Amnesty International still recall the threats made to
them a few hours before the killing started:
“On several occasions, armed men entered the prison and stared at us. One of them said: ‘Can you remember the White Horse, the
black Mercedes[i] Yopougon? I had to go into exile. You are all going to die.’ Another came in later and said: ‘Remember Yopougon? Now it’s your turn. Whatever will
be, will be’.”
Despite these threats, many prisoners did not seem to realise the
danger they faced. One of the survivors told Amnesty International: “We couldn’t believe it, we thought
they were just saying that to demoralise us, we didn’t think they were actually going to do it.”
Suddenly, towards 20.00 hours, two armed men entered the prison, including a
Dozo[ii]. All the witnesses met by Amnesty International agree on what happened next:
“Two men came in, a Dozo and another man in military uniform. They stood on the threshold of the door and shouted at us
aggressively, threatening us. Then, suddenly, against all expectations, the Dozo opened fire with his Kalashnikov, hitting everybody in front of him. Some prisoners were sitting, others were
laying on the floor, a lot of them were hit. I was able to escape alive because I was leaning on the tap, near the WC, in the left hand corner of the prison (see above drawing), and so I was
outside the firing line. They then closed the door and left.”
The prisoners realised that these armed men would return and everyone tried to find
a hiding place in the small building. Half an hour later, a second group of armed men opened the prison door. One of the survivors told Amnesty International what happened:
“I hid in one of the cells at the far end. Other more agile prisoners climbed up on the roof. A half hour later, armed men came
in and fired blindly at us. I heard children shouting: ‘We are not gendarmes, don’t kill us!”
Towards 22.00 hours, a third group came in. One of them shouted:
‘Kill them all’. Then, one of the members of the group entered the prison compound, climbing over the dead and wounded, who were motionless on the floor. A witness told Amnesty International how this
armed man moved towards him:
“I was hiding in the cell on the left. The wall protected us against the bullets, but one of the ‘rebels’ approached and had a
look in our cell. He said: ‘Shit, there are still a lot of them in here’. He sprayed the room with bullets, then he reloaded and opened fire again indiscriminately. When he left, I was covered in
blood. I hid under a body to protect myself.”
Another witness survived by hiding in the cell on the right. The MPCI
soldiers did not fire on the people in this cell, because members of the Forces Nationales de Côte
d’Ivoire (FANCI), National Côte d’Ivoire Forces, were held there, and had been apparently held there
since the MPCI captured the town on 19 September 2002. This testimony clearly shows that the killings were not carried out in an uncontrolled manner. Despite the hate articulated by the MPCI
personnel and the blind violence of their attacks, they maintained a distinction between the different security forces.
According to the survivors, the three successive waves of firing
killed about 40 gendarmes, about 30 of their children and five of the civilians arrested with them, including a teacher and a shop assistant working at the ‘18 logements’ chemist in
Throughout the next day, Monday 7 October 2002, and for a good part of Tuesday 8
October, nobody came into the prison and the survivors remained alone, without food and with the dead and wounded, some of who died on that day.
One of the gendarmes met by Amnesty International lost three sons in the massacre.
One of them died instantly on the evening of 6 October and two died in his arms on the next day:
“I was arrested with three of my children. The 21 year old died instantly on Sunday evening. My two other children, aged 19 and
23, were wounded. I stayed at their sides throughout Monday but they died on that day from their wounds.”[iii]
One of the surviving gendarmes told the Amnesty International delegation that
people regularly came to look through the keyhole. It was only at around 17.00 hours on Tuesday 8 October that the prison doors opened again and MPCI personnel told
some of the prisoners to bring out the bodies for burial. One of the gendarmes
given this task told Amnesty International:
“Some of the bodies were already in a state of decomposition. The smell was so bad that the ‘rebels’ covered their nose and
mouth. We loaded three vehicles with bodies and took them to the neighbourhood called ‘Dar es Salaam’ where we buried them in mass graves.”
The people who buried the bodies that day were taken back to the prison. The guards
told the survivors to wash the blood- spattered walls. However, they did not remove all traces of the massacre, because the Amnesty International delegation saw many bullet holes that had
literally pierced the walls of the prison. During the night of 8 to 9 October, seven other wounded died from their wounds. On Wednesday 9 October, the guards made some of the survivors bury the
newly dead. But unlike the preceding day, none of them returned to the prison. All the survivors of the Bouaké massacre are convinced that they were killed on the site of the mass grave after
being forced to bury their colleagues.
“They chose the heftiest ones, including Séry Sogor, Doua Gbongue, Brou Koffi Raymond and Obo Boni to take the dead away. They
also took away three wounded on the pretext that they had no drugs. None of them returned.”
Photo caption Chief Master Sergeant Dosso Messolo
Among the three wounded who were taken away was Alain Messolo, one
of the sons of Chief Master Sergeant Dosso Messolo. The latter, who had already seen another of his sons, Ladji, die before his own eyes, did not want to let his son Alain go on his own and
insisted on going with him. They were never seen again.
That same Wednesday, 9 October, towards 17.00 hours, several vehicles came to pick up the last
survivors, who now numbered about 40. One of them told us:
“In the lorry, they made fun of us and forced us to sing ‘Jesus
is good’, ‘Jesus is bad’, to make sure we understood that we were going to be killed and make us understand that Jesus was going to desert us. We arrived at the place where some of our colleagues
had buried the dead on the previous day. We saw that the well-sinkers had just dug another hole. Before we could get down from the lorries, one of them told us
they were going to kill us. Then he told us that we could run if we wanted, and this would give them a bit of ‘target practice’. Suddenly, someone said that ‘the colonel’ had told them to take
the prisoners back and we returned to the prison.”
A few days later, 26 of the gendarmes’ children and one gendarme who had survived the massacre
were released. But that did not put an end to the summary executions. On 14 November 2002, two gendarmes, Sergeant Vléi Déhé Paul and staff-sergeant Koué Bi Zanli, were taken from their cells by
a member of the MPCI called Sékou, who had apparently been punished for an unknown reason. One of the surviving gendarmes told Amnesty International:
“These three people never returned. Prisoners were later told to
bury them. Once again, we were afraid. We understood that nothing had finished.”
The release of the last prisoners in exchange for very
When the Amnesty International delegation managed to gain access to the 3rd infantry battalion
military camp prison, in December 2002, there were ten gendarmes left there, one police officer and one soldier. The latter two had been arrested after the gendarmes.
Since then, Amnesty International has obtained confirmation that all the gendarmes who survived the massacre were
released after paying very large ransoms of between 750,000 and 1,000,000 francs CFA (between 1,100 and 1,500 Euro). The MPCI members guarding the prisoners blackmailed the gendarmes’ families,
threatening to kill their detained relatives if they did not pay the ransom they were demanding. In spite of the terrible economic crisis that has affected the whole country since the beginning
of the crisis in September 2002, the families of the prisoners were able to raise the money thanks to extensive family solidarity.
One of the released gendarmes told Amnesty International : “All
my family got together to raise the money. They borrowed money in order to free me. When I got back to Abidjan, they looked at me as if I were a ghost.”
It seems that the soldier still detained had not been able to contact his relatives to ask them
to raise money for the ransom. This soldier was not a witness to the execution of the gendarmes and their children between 6 and 9 October 2002. He was arrested at a later date. Amnesty
International insisted that the MPCI authorities provide this soldier with the protection afforded by the Geneva Conventions.
In addition, the MPCI sent Amnesty International a memorandum, dated 10 February
2003, in which it noted “its surprise at many of the points in Amnesty International’s report, especially in relation to extrajudicial executions [and the] release of
prisoners in exchange for a ransom.”. Amnesty International notes the MPCI’s position, but considers that its investigation has already established various
· The organisation cannot comment on the possible involvement of the
gendarmes arrested on 6 October at the 3rd gendarme legion headquarters in Bouaké in the attack launched by government troops in an attempt to recapture the town on that day.
· However, all witnesses agree that more than 100 people (about 60
gendarmes, about 50 of their children and a few civilians) were disarmed and taken to the 3rd infantry battalion military camp prison. These individuals were, therefore, protected by common
article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions. This article applies equally to government troops and armed opposition groups and, in particular, provides that: “Persons
taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those laced hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall
in all circumstances be treated humanely”.
· Amnesty International has been able to establish, on the basis of
witness accounts, a list of 60 people who were killed in a summary and deliberate manner inside the prison.
· Amnesty International believes that some survivors, including the
wounded, were not killed at the site of the mass grave. Until an impartial and independent investigation has been able to identify the bodies buried in the mass graves at Bouaké, the organisation
considers these people to be “disappeared”.
· Amnesty International considers that these facts constitute a very
serious breach of the Geneva Conventions, which binds the MPCI in the same way as it binds all other parties to the conflict.