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An Anatomy of a Mortar StrikeAn Anatomy of an Explosive Weapon AttackAOAV: all our reports

An Anatomy of a Mortar Attack: Other Considerations

AOAV’s field work in Abobo revealed other areas of harm which were not accounted for in UNIDIR’s indicators: psychological harm, economic and commercial harm. In AOAV’s field work, those who witnessed the attacks reported fear, stress and anxiety which had lingered long after the attack. Alpha, an Abobo resident at the time, told AOAV of his struggles to sleep during the conflict – he was one of many who attributed a sense of trauma to the attack. Psychological harm, though difficult to quantify, could have been measured in surveys or through measuring take up of psychiatric services. 

The destruction to commercial property such as markets and schools had a significant economic effect on individuals and the community. This was not quantified in UNIDIR’s indicators, yet it is one of the most significant harms of the Abobo attack, and indeed many other mortar attacks. In Abobo the wholesale destruction to markets and commercial property by mortar shells destroyed the livelihood of many residents. But it also contributed to the sporadic forms of violence in the commune in the decade after the attack, with one research paper noting that young people involved in criminal violence in Abobo ‘usually come from households where the head of the family is unemployed or has a low income’.    

UNOCI peacekeeping operation, photo reportedly taken on the 17 March 2011. Credit: IronMaskAfrica.

Rules and Violations  

The precautionary obligations of armed actors are rarely evaluated after an attack. The shelling of Abobo is a notable exception. The day after the attack the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Rupert Colville said in a news briefing: “It is quite difficult to avoid the conclusion that this may be an international crime, possibly a crime against humanity”. The attack subsequently became one of the three charges of crimes against humanity brought against Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé by the ICC. Gbagbo is the first former head of state to ever stand trial at the ICC. The ICC chamber concluded that while organised resistance groups were present in Abobo (pro-Ouattara forces) “this fact does not deny either that the shelling took place or that it targeted the civilian population”.  

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Conclusion and Recommendations

More in this series: An Anatomy of an Explosive Weapon Attack