Ivory Coast Political Death Toll Reaches 173, UN Says
Political violence in Ivory Coast has claimed the lives of 173 people in the past week, while 90 more have been tortured or ill treated and 24 have disappeared, a United Nations official said.
Kyung-wha Kang, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, said supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo have used “excessive force,” torture and extrajudicial killings since the announcement of election results that gave his rival, Alassane Ouattara, victory in the Nov. 28 election.
“These acts are ominously reminiscent of the violence that blighted the country in 2004, and are blatant violations of obligations under international human rights law,” Kang said today at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.
Supporters of Ouattara, recognized by the UN, U.S. and the African Union as the election winner, on Dec. 16 took to the streets of the commercial capital, Abidjan, to demonstrate against Gbagbo, who says he won the vote and won’t step down.
“The security forces are doing their job, which is to say to maintain order, not more,” Eric Ane, a spokesman for Gbagbo’s party, said on the day of the protests.
Guillaume Soro, whom Ouattara has appointed as his prime minister, has called on citizens to continue to disobey the government until Gbagbo cedes the presidency. He has also demanded that foreign powers use force to oust the incumbent.
Calls for Assistance
Simon Munzu, chief of the UN mission’s human rights department, said he received 300 calls a day “on average” from people asking for assistance since the Dec. 16 protest march was quashed by security forces.
“These figures are in relation to the cases we have verified, but just on the basis of cases reported there may be many more,” Munzu said in an interview.
The election vote was meant to end eight years of division in the world’s top cocoa grower, where rebels complaining of discrimination by Gbagbo’s elite captured the northern half of the West African nation.
Mercenaries, probably from Liberia and Angola, have been recruited to help Gbagbo’s cause, Alain LeRoy, head of UN peacekeeping operations, said on Dec. 21.
In some instances, security forces work alongside “heavily armed English-speaking individuals claiming to be Liberian,” UN mission spokesman Hamadoun Touré told reporters today.
Human rights investigators have been unable to check other allegations of abuses, including reports of mass graves, because the security forces and youth groups loyal to Gbagbo stymied their movements, Kang said.
More than 6,000 people have fled Ivory Coast since Dec. 3, with the vast majority entering neighboring Liberia, she said.
The state-owned Radio Television Ivorienne and some private newspapers are being used by Gbagbo’s supporters to “incite hatred and violence among the population and to disseminate false and inflammatory information against the United Nations,” Kang said, adding that this violates international criminal law.
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