UN rights council spotlights Ivory Coast 'atrocities'

23rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN Human Rights Council held a special session Thursday on Ivory Coast's post-election crisis to consider a draft resolution warning of "atrocities" and urging respect for the "will of the people".

The United Nations told the one-day meeting of the 47-member rights assembly that it had received allegations of 173 killings as well as nearly 500 reports of arrests or disappearances in the country over the past week.

The session was called at the request of more than 20 mainly western and African member states led by the United States and Nigeria, in an attempt to display unity over the Ivorian crisis.

"The international community has sent a message to those in Ivory Coast who use violence as a means to achieve their objective that this will not be tolerated," US ambassador Betty King told journalists.

The incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara have been locked in a standoff since last month's presidential election which both men claimed to have won, leading to deadly post-election violence.

World powers, the United Nations and the African Union have recognised the challenger, Ouattara, as president and have demanded the incumbent step down, while the UN has warned that the country could slide into civil war.

"Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances," UN deputy human rights chief Kyung-wha Kang said.

"Unfortunately it has been impossible to investigate all the allegations of serious human rights violations, including reports of mass graves, due to restrictions on movement by UN personnel," she added.

Kang said the UN secretary general's envoy was stopped at gunpoint as he sought to verify the allegations.

Ouattara's camp has called on the international community to consider the use of military force, after accusing security forces loyal to Gbagbo of murdering scores of civilians.

Nigeria, on behalf of the African group of nations, submitted a draft resolution for endorsement by the Council that would place Ivory Coast under international scrutiny, according to the text released by the UN.

It expressed deep concern "about the atrocities and violations of human rights committed in Ivory Coast in relation to the conclusion of the 2010 presidential election" and "strongly condemns" violations.

The proposal called on all sides "to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and fully respect all... fundamental freedoms, the will of the people as well as the restoration of democracy and the rule of law."

It urged "all actors, particularly defence and security forces to refrain from violence... as well as to assume their responsibilities for the protection of the civilian population."

The draft also asked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to report back the Council's next regular session in March on abuses and violations since the elections.

"This morning the human rights council sent a unified and unambiguous message to the people in Ivory Coast. That message says that violence, killings must end and must end immediately," US envoy King said.

Amnesty International called on the Council to demand that the UN forces in Ivory Coast "act robustly" to uphold human rights in the West African country.

© 2010 AFP

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