UN rights office urges restraint, caution in Ivory Coast

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[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Friday urged all parties to show restraint [press release] in the Ivory Coast [JURIST news archive]. OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville acknowledged [press briefing] that OHCHR had received unconfirmed reports that the Ivory Coast Republican Forces had “engaged in looting and extortion, as well as serious human rights violations such as abductions, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of civilians” during their advance towards the capital Abidjan. In addition, reports from inside Abidjan indicated the pro-Ouattara Invisible Commando group continued to commit abuses [Reuters report]. The OHCHR cautioned both sides, indicating that the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] as well as the recently established Commission of Inquiry for Cote d’Ivoire were already present and would investigate abuses by all sides [AFP report]. Ouattara reopened the airspace on Friday after Republican Forces took control of the state broadcaster [Bloomberg report] and seized Gbagbo’s house in the Cocody neighborhood of Abidjan. Gbagbo’s whereabouts are unknown.

Gbagbo has refused to cede power to president-elect Ouattara, who won the November 28 runoff election according to international observers. Last week, the OHCHR announced [press release] that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] will send an independent international commission to investigate [JURIST report] allegations of serious human rights abuses during post-election violence in the Ivory Coast. Last month, the OHCHR called for an independent investigation [JURIST report] into post-election violence as part of a report to the UNHRC. In January, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] rejected the proposed recount [JURIST report] of November’s Ivory Coast presidential runoff election results as a “grave injustice and unfortunate precedent.” Also in January, UN officials expressed “grave concerns” [JURIST report] on continued post-election violence in the Ivory Coast, cautioning that genocide could be imminent. In December, UN officials urged all parties to the disputed presidential election in the Ivory Coast to honor the country’s commitment to prevent genocide [JURIST report], crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing under the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document [text, PDF]. Also in December, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] urged Gbagbo to step down, threatening the use of force [JURIST report] if he attempts to maintain power.

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