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UN rights council names I.Coast probe team

Published on 12/04/2011

The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday named three experts, including a former investigator on North Korea, to probe violations in Ivory Coast after November's disputed presidential elections.

Thailand’s Vitit Muntabhorn, who served previously as the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights on North Korea, will head the group.

He will be joined by Sudan’s Suliman Baldo, an expert on conflict resolution, and Benin’s Reine Alapini Gansou, who has chaired the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights since 2009.

The 47-member UN rights council agreed on March 25 to set up the international commission of inquiry into the “facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations of serious abuses and violations of human rights committed” in Ivory Coast.

The mandate seeks to “identify those responsible for such acts and bring them to justice.”

“The appointment of the commission underscores the gravity of the situation of alleged violation of human rights,” said Sihasak Phuangketkeow, President of the council and ambassador of Thailand.

The inquiry team is expected to present its first findings to the Geneva-based council during its next session in June.

Earlier Tuesday, the UN human rights office said at least 536 people had been killed in west Ivory Coast since the end of March, the majority in the town of Duekoue, and warned the toll could be higher.

The UN on Friday said its human rights investigators had found more than 100 bodies in 24 hours in the same areas of western Ivory Coast, some in mass graves after what appeared to have been ethnically driven killings.

That discovery followed an earlier count of 229 corpses previously found in Duekoue and the UN human rights office said the violence was escalating.

On Saturday, the campaign group Human Rights Watch accused forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara of killing or raping hundreds of people and burning villages during a rampage in late March.

The rights group revealed new evidence of summary killings of supporters of arrested strongman Laurent Gbagbo in the far west as Ouattara followers seized Gbagbo territory.

The UN has been more cautious about assigning responsibility for incidents, underlining that the recent national power struggle had grafted on to ethnic tensions in the region.