UN rights council announces members of Ivory Coast post-election violence panel

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[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] announced [press release] on Tuesday the appointment of three “high-level experts” to lead the Commission of Inquiry charged with investigating allegations of human rights abuses in the Ivory Coast following elections. The appointments include Vitit Muntabhorn, a professor of law at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, who will serve as the Chair of the Commission. Other appointees include Suliman Baldo of Sudan, a widely recognized expert on conflict resolution, emergency relief, development, and human rights in Africa; and Reine Alapini Gansou of Benin who is a lawyer and the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights since 2009. The announcement comes in the wake of the capture and arrest [JURIST report] of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo on Monday by forces loyal to internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara [BBC profiles]. Although allegations of abuses are directed at both sides, a spokesman for Ouattara insisted that the responsibility lies exclusively at the feet of Gbagbo [Aljazeera report]. The Commission of Inquiry’s mandate is “to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations of serious abuses … in order to identify those responsible fur such acts and bring them to justice.” The UNHRC believes there are hundreds of victims of ethnic and political violence that ensued following the election.

Late last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Ivory Coast to investigate [JURIST report] human rights violations and war crimes. Earlier last week, International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] told reporters that he is willing to investigate [JURIST report] alleged war crimes in the Ivory Coast, but a lack of referrals is impeding the process. Earlier this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] reported the deaths of at least 800 civilians [JURIST report] in the Ivory Coast town of Duekoue as a result of intercommunal violence that took place. Also this month, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged all parties to show restraint [JURIST report]. Last month, the OHCHR called for an independent investigation into post-election violence [JURIST report]. In January, UN officials expressed “grave concerns” [JURIST report] regarding the post-election violence, cautioning that genocide could be imminent. In February, Gbagbo dissolved the country’s parliament [JURIST report] and electoral commission based on allegations of voter fraud in the long delayed presidential elections. On disbanding the government, Gbagbo charged Prime Minister Guillaume Soro [BBC profile] with creation of new government and new election format. The violence stems from Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power to president-elect Alassane Ouattara, who won the November 2010 runoff election according to international observers. Gbagbo was elected president in 2000 to serve a five-year term, but he has managed to stay in office, delaying six successive elections.

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