, GENEVA, Jul 22 – The Red Cross said Friday it had visited former Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo in detention this week, as part of a series of visits to people held in the north of the west African state.
“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has just completed a series of visits to people held in detention facilities or under house arrest,” said the relief agency in a statement.
“Among those visited was Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Ivory Coast.
“The visits took place from 18 to 21 July in Bouna, Boundiali, Katiola, Korhogo and Odienne, in the north of the country,” added the ICRC.
ICRC spokesman Marcal Izard said the relief agency was unable to give details about the conditions of the detainees, in line with confidentiality rules.
Any concerns that the agency may have are to be made directly to the authorities, and only in extremely rare cases — “one in 10 years” — would the ICRC go public to air their concerns, said Izard.
The spokesman was also unable to give a number for the detainees visited, but said they were “people who were detained by the authorities after the events between February to April.”
“Gaining access to everyone arrested in connection with the post-electoral crisis has always been a priority for the ICRC,” said Dominique Liengme, who heads the ICRC’s delegation in Abidjan.
“With the agreement of the Ivorian government, the visits were conducted in accordance with the ICRC’s customary working procedures. These include private interviews with detainees,” she added.
The relief agency also said that it was planning to repeat its visits, as well as extend them to other parts of the country.
“We will continue to visit people held in all temporary and permanent places of detention in the country to make sure they are treated humanely,” said Liengme.
An estimated 3,000 people died in a three-month standoff after Gbagbo refused to cede power following elections in November won by the internationally recognised Alassane Ouattara, who was finally inaugurated on May 21.
Gbagbo was captured in an underground bunker in Abidjan on April 11 by forces loyal to Ouattara, backed by France and the UN.