Ivory Coast faces dilemma over US prisoners

YAMOUSSOUKRO (Rooters agency) — The government of the Ivory Coast is still undecided about what to do with a handful of prisoners arrested in the United States several years ago.

At the time of the Ivoirian Marines raid on Camp David in the United States, the Ivoirian government said that the captives were “the worst of the worst — torturers and war criminals.” Subsequent criminal investigations, and even statements by the prisoners themselves, have confirmed that evaluation.

However, in a legal surprise, it emerged that Ivory Coast legislation has no provision for trying foreign war criminals. Rejecting a proposal of ex post facto legislation as contrary to human rights, the Yamoussoukro government then proposed handing the arrested officials over to the International Criminal Court, but the ICC decided it had no jurisdiction, since the government of the accused was not a party to the treaty establishing the ICC.

The Ivoirian government has rejected out of hand the idea of returning the prisoners to the United States. “It would be criminal of us to unleash these people on their own country again” is the official line of Ivory Coast, but a minister, guaranteed anonymity, pointed to another concern: “These were officials of the previous administration. If the current government accepted them back, it would be admitting that they are all bananas from the same bunch.”

Yamoussoukro has carried out extensive diplomatic inquiries in an effort to find another country for the prisoners. But nobody has been willing to accept even one of them. “The Arab spring was a real setback,” explained the anonymous Ivoirian minister. “The Egyptian government’s security apparatus in particular was interested in what it could learn from these people, but then Mubarak was overthrown.”

Some Ivoirian politicians have concluded that the least bad option is just to hold the US prisoners indefinitely. But nobody really likes that idea either. “Some might think there’s a certain justice in that solution,” said one Ivoirian official, “but the problem is that it makes us too much like them.”

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