An Ivory Coast court convicted six former soldiers for the kidnapping, torture and murder of four foreigners in 2011 during a civil war that following a disputed election, the prosecution said.
Gunmen kidnapped the four victims – two Frenchmen, a Beninese and a Malaysian – from the Novotel hotel in Abidjan in April 2011 and took them to the presidential palace where they were tortured and killed, according to a court statement from the public prosecutor.
The former soldiers, sentenced on Thursday evening, were loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo, who triggered the conflict by his refusal in 2010 to accept defeat in a run-off against current President Alassane Ouattara.
The soldiers’ victims included the Novotel’s French manager Stephane Frantz di Rippel and French citizen Yves Lambelin, then-president of agro-industrial company Sifca.
The other two were also businessmen.
A month later, two corpses were found in Abidjan’s lagoon, one of which was that of Lambelin, who appeared to have been executed with a bullet to the head with a medical report showing multiple fractures to the limbs, the prosecution said.
“The verdict was exactly what we wanted: the chain of command was recognised as responsible,” Pierre-Olivier Sur, lawyer for the families of the French victims, told AFP.
Despite the trial, the prosecution was unable to discover the location of the other victims’ bodies.
Former police chief Osee Loguey was sentenced to 20 years in prison while General Bruno Dogbo Ble, then-commander of the elite Republican Guard, to 18 years.
Four other members of the military were handed sentences of 18 years or shorter for kidnapping, torture and complicity in murder.
A further four were acquitted.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the four-month conflict, which ended when Ouattara’s forces, backed by the French army, arrested Gbagbo.
The former president is on trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the conflict.
Dogbo Ble’s lawyer Rodrigue Dadje said yesterday that his client would lodge an appeal.