A new United Nations report highlights an ongoing pattern of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, abductions and excessive use of force, in Côte d’Ivoire since the November election and warns that the situation is only getting worse.
“With the political stalemate now going into the third month, the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire is becoming more precarious,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, states in her report on the human rights situation in the West African nation.
The report, which was commissioned by the Human Rights Council and covers events up to 31 January 2011, documents a trend in rights violations, with almost 300 people killed, most as a result of extra-judicial killings committed by elements of the security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.
The outgoing president refuses to leave office despite opposition leader Allasane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the 28 November presidential run-off. The election was meant to be the culminating point in reunifying the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.
The rights violations cited in the report include extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, excessive use of force by security forces and destruction of property committed by the security forces and individuals, and incitement to violence by state television.
It shows that most of the serious violations are perpetrated in the areas under the control of Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters, mainly in the southern and western regions and in the commercial capital of Abidjan. It also notes that some incidents are committed in the areas controlled by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.
In addition to the deterioration of the human rights situation, Ms. Pillay also voices her concern about the obstructions to the movement and operation of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and its Human Rights Division, and attacks on UN staff.
She calls on all parties, particularly Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters, to cease infringements of human rights, to allow the independent investigation of violations and to cooperate with the UN for the protection of civilians.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire today deplored the excessive use of force against demonstrators in the city of Abidjan and surrounding areas over the past couple of days, saying the violence had left dozens of people dead or wounded.
The mission (UNOCI) condemned the disproportionate use of force by security forces, who it said used heavy weapons against the demonstrators.
“UNOCI calls on all parties to exercise restraint at a time when political and diplomatic efforts are under way at the highest level to find a peaceful solution to the Ivorian post-electoral crisis,” the mission said in a press release.
Côte d’Ivoire descended into turmoil in early December when Mr. Laurent Gbagbo, the outgoing president, refused to leave office despite opposition leader Allasane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the presidential elections. Mr. Ouattara has been recognized by the international community as the duly elected president.
The head of UNOCI’s police component has warned that Gbagbo loyalist militias may be preparing for civil war. “The Gbagbo clan has a long tradition of mobilizing militias and being very hostile and having armed mobs which it is at present trying to rally,” Commissioner Jean-Marie Bourry told the UN News Centre last week. “Everything leads us to believe that we are seeing preparations for a civil war.”
The election was meant to be the culminating point in reunifying the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.
Mr. Gbagbo has demanded the withdrawal of the 9,000-strong UNOCI. Not only has the UN refused this but the Security Council last month, in a unanimous resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of force, authorized the immediate deployment of an additional 2,000 troops and three armed helicopters.