UN rights council unites against Ivory Coast 'atrocities'

23rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday took a unanimous stand against "the atrocities" committed during post election violence in Ivory Coast, strongly condemning abductions and killings.

The consensus decision came after a senior UN rights official told the Geneva-based body that her staff had gathered credible reports of at least 173 killed over the past week in Ivory Coast as well as allegations of mass graves.

A senior UN official was stopped at gunpoint as he sought to verify the allegations in the west African country, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang said.

Her comments came shortly before the 47 member council adopted a resolution that places Ivory Coast under scrutiny following the flare-up after last month's presidential election.

The move at a special session on the Ivorian crisis, which was called by Nigeria on behalf of African states and the United States, marked a rare display of unity by the world body's rights assembly.

"It's a very clear signal that those who are on the ground committing abuses are being watched," said US diplomat Mark Cassayre.

In the resolution, the council said it was "deeply concerned about the atrocities and violations of human rights committed in Ivory Coast in relation to the conclusion of the 2010 Presidential Election."

The resolution "strongly condemns human rights violations that have taken place in Ivory Coast, including abductions, enforced or involuntary disappearances, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, acts of sexual violence, denial of right to peaceful assembly, the loss of lives and the acts of destruction of property."

US ambassador Betty King told journalists: "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."

Outgoing president 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 Gbagbo 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," King told the council.

"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.

She called for restrictions imposed by security forces and groups loyal to Gbagbo to be lifted immediately.

The council also asked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was to report back on post election violence.

Ouattara's camp has accused security forces loyal to Gbagbo of murdering scores of civilians.

© 2010 AFP

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