French special forces Monday aided in the capture of the Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] in the city of Abidjan. Gbagbo surrendered after French tanks moved in on his residence [BBC report] while it was surrounded by opposition leader Alassane Ouattara's forces. Gbagbo has refused to leave office since he was defeated in the presidential elections last November. France had deployed forces to the Ivory Coast as part of a UN-backed peacekeeping mission to stem violence over the November election [CIA backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. It was reported that French special forces had captured Gbagbo and turned him over to Ouattar's forces, but Youssoufou Bamba, the UN envoy of president-elect Ouattara, said it was the opposition leader's forces who made the arrest. However, there are still other conflicting reports [WP report] over what forces actually made the arrest. Gbagbo is being held in a hotel with his family under the protection of UN and pro-Ouattara forces. France has claimed that its intervention in its former colony [Reuters report] is only at the UN's request.
Last week, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report urged Ouattara to conduct an investigation [JURIST report] into alleged atrocities carried out by his forces in its attempts to secure the presidency. According to the report, the pro-Ouattara forces, known as the Republican Forces of Cote d'Ivoire, killed more than 100 civilians, raped at least 20 supporters of Gbagbo and burned at least 10 villages in March. Earlier this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] reported the deaths of at least 800 civilians [JURIST report] in the Ivory Coast town of Duekoue as a result of intercommunal violence. Earlier, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged all parties in the Ivory Coast to show restraint and called for an independent investigation into post-election violence [JURIST reports]. In January, UN officials expressed "grave concerns" [JURIST report] regarding the post-election violence, cautioning that genocide could be imminent.