EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 31/01/94
UA 191/94 Legal concern / Fear of ill-treatment 18 May 1994
COTE D'IVOIRE: Guirao Blé, deputy secretary general of the Fédération
estudiantine et scolaire de Côte d'Ivoire (FESCI),
Ivoirian Federation of Student and School Pupils
and at least 15 other FESCI members including:
Up to 30 student members of FESCI were arrested on 15 May 1994 when a peaceful
meeting on the campus of the University of Cocody in the capital, Abidjan,
was broken up by the security forces. At least 16 students, including those
named above, are reportedly still held in incommunicado detention; some of
them are believed to be detained at the police academy near the University
of Cocody. According to reports, at least one of the students was severely
beaten at the time of his arrest and is said to have lost consciousness. He
was taken to hospital in Cocody, Abidjan, where he is reportedly still held.
Amnesty International fears that all the detainees are at serious risk of
ill-treatment during this period of incommunicado detention. Most or all of
those detained appear to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned because of
their membership of the FESCI, an organization which the government claims
has been outlawed.
Since the arrest of these students on 15 May, the security forces have reportedly
been searching for a number of other FESCI leaders who are currently in hiding.
The Ivoirian government is reported to have launched a crackdown on the
activities of the FESCI in recent months. In a televised statement on 10 May
1994, the Minister of Higher Education apparently accused FESCI activists of
terrorizing ordinary citizens and said that the FESCI was in league with the
opposition. The Minister claimed that the FESCI was officially banned in 1991.
However, it is unclear whether there is a legal statute banning the FESCI
or whether the ban was only mentioned in verbal statements by the authorities.
Despite the alleged ban, the FESCI was allowed to hold numerous public meetings
in 1993 and to participate in official negotiations with the government.
FESCI activists have been arrested on several occasions in the past. In March
1994 the police arrested several FESCI members after a demonstration that became
violent on the campus of the University of Bouaké (290 km north of Abidjan).
One FESCI activist, Eugène Gonthy, was subsequently tried on charges of assault
and wilful destruction of public property and sentenced to one year's
imprisonment on 29 March 1994. It appears that the prosecution was unable to
provide any evidence to demonstrate his personal involvement in any acts of
violence and Amnesty International believes that he may be a prisoner of
conscience, convicted solely because of his FESCI activities. At least five
other students arrested with Eugène Gonthy remain in detention without charge
or trial in Bouaké.
The imprisonment of Eugène Gonthy provoked a huge wave of protest at the
University of Cocody in Abidjan where students went on strike to call for his