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UN rights chief says mass graves reported in I.Coast

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday reports had been received of at least two mass graves in Ivory Coast amid fears of crimes against humanity.

“We have received reports of at least two mass graves; however, UN human rights teams have been denied access to the scenes of these atrocities in order to investigate them,” Pillay said in a statement.

Pillay said she had written to self-proclaimed president Laurent Gbagbo and other key figures in his regime warning they would be held personally responsible for human rights violations.

Gbagbo is refusing to step down in favour of the internationally recognised winner of November 28 elections, Alassane Ouattara.

“The international criminal justice system that has developed over the past fifteen or so years has given us a tool of accountability we did not have before,” Pillay said.

“No longer can heads of state, and other actors, be sure that they can commit atrocious violations and get away with it.”

Earlier Friday UN human rights experts said they feared gross human rights violations being committed in Ivory Coast could amount to “crimes against humanity.”

Evidence from credible sources suggested “enforced or involuntary disappearances, arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial or arbitrary executions and sexual violence had occurred and may still be occurring,” they said in a statement.

“When committed in certain circumstances, enforced disappearances amount to a crime against humanity,” warned the UN’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

“Those who have perpetrated such horrendous acts shall be held accountable.”

Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, called on all Ivorian parties “to prevent extrajudicial executions and take all necessary measures to protect the life of the population.”

Dozens of people have been killed in post-election violence in the former French colony, according to UN figures.