EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 31/01/93
UA 148/93 Legal Concern 7 May 1993
COTE D'IVOIRE:Chantal LEBA (female), and over 40 other students at risk of prosecution
under new and controversial legislation
Amnesty International fears that over 40 students arrested on 19 April 1993, some or all
of whom may be prisoners of conscience, face prosecution under an unjust law which has
been introduced to curtail their internationally-recognized rights of freedom of association
and expression. Amnesty International fears that the use of this new legislation, if
unchallenged, may lead to the imprisonment of these students and other prisoners of
conscience in the future. The use of similar legislation has, in the past, led to the
unfair trial and imprisonment of prisoners of conscience (see Background Information,
Over 40 students, including former prisoner of conscience Chantal Leba, were arrested on
19 April 1993, following a public meeting called by the Fédération estudiantine et scolaire
de Côte d'Ivoire (FESCI), Ivorian Federation of Students and School Pupils, at the University
of Cocody in the capital, Abidjan, which became violent when it was broken up by the security
forces. Although no evidence has been produced to suggest that the students arrested after
the meeting were themselves involved in any acts of violence or vandalism, at least 44
of them have now been charged with physical assault and wilful destruction of public property
and vehicles under a new law which is being used for the first time since its introduction
in July 1992. Law No. 92-464 relating to the repression of certain forms of violence,
Loi No. 92-464 portant repression de certaines formes de violence, provides for the
imprisonment of anyone who organizes or participates in a meeting which becomes violent,
whether or not they have participated in or are responsible for inciting those acts.
Conviction under this law can carry a sentence of up to 20 years' imprisonment.
The FESCI meeting of 19 April 1993, which was initially peaceful, was broken up by security
forces who reportedly claimed that the meeting had been banned. Student leaders reportedly
deny this, and claim that they had sought and obtained permission to hold the meeting on
campus. Material damage was caused to cars and other property, and, although the
perpetrators of such damage were not clearly identified, over 40 students were arrested.
Some were reportedly beaten by the security forces at the time of their arrest; one student,
Chantal Leba, was reportedly severely beaten. Chantal Leba was among 77 prisoners of
conscience in Côte d'Ivoire adopted by Amnesty International in 1992.
They are held at the Maison d'Arrêt et de Correction d'Abidjan (MACA), where conditions
are reportedly harsh. In 1991, some 190 common law prisoners held at the MACA, some of
whom had spent years awaiting trial, died as a result of medical neglect and poor hygiene.
In February 1992, the government held non-violent political leaders and student activists
collectively responsible for rioting and damage to property which occurred during two
demonstrations held in the capital, Abidjan, despite the fact that the actual authors of
the violence were not identified and some observers claimed it was, in fact, instigated