UN urges parties to prevent ethnic crimes in post-election Ivory Coast

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[JURIST] Officials from the United Nations [official website] on Thursday urged all parties to the disputed presidential election in the Ivory Coast [JURIST news archive] to honor the country’s commitment to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing under the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document [text, PDF]. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng [official profile] and Edward Luck [academic profile], the Special Adviser focusing on the responsibility to protect, expressed concern [press release] at the mounting threat of ethnic violence in the wake of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office after his defeat by challenger Alassane Ouattara [BBC profiles]. Deng called allegations that the homes of Gbagbo’s political opponents have been marked with their occupants’ ethnicity “extremely worrying.” Also on Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that he was deeply alarmed [press release] by reports that one of Gbagbo’s supporters has ordered a sympathetic youth political movement, the Young Patriots [advocacy website, in French] to attack the hotel where UN Ivory Coast Operation (UNOCI) [official website] peacekeepers are guarding president-elect Ouattara, on January 1. A spokesperson for the UN Office of the Secretary General [official website], Martin Nesirky, affirmed the UNOCI’s willingness to “use all necessary means” to enforce international law:

The Secretary General remains very concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Ivory Coast…. The Secretary General wishes to warn that any attack against peacekeepers constitutes a crime under international law, for which the perpetrators and those who instigate them will be held accountable. Any attack on the Golf Hotel could provoke widespread violence that could reignite civil war. The Secretary General calls on all those who may be contemplating participation in the attack to refrain from such dangerous and irresponsible action.

Youssoufou Bamba, Ouattara’s newly appointed ambassador to the UN characterized the West African nation as being on the brink of genocide [Reuters report].

During the post-election violence in the Ivory Coast, hundreds have been arrested and dozens have allegedly been subjected to torture, ill treatment and forced disappearances. Last week, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [official website] expressed concern [press release; JURIST report] over the humanitarian needs of nearly 14,000 Ivory Coast refugees who have fled to Liberia over the past month due to post-election political instability and violence. The UNHCR warned that food supplies and housing are running short as refugees are increasingly arriving malnourished and fighting disease. Ouattara defeated Gbagbo in a November 28 runoff election, but Gbagbo has refused to concede victory, his supporters have responded to his loss in the election with a campaign of violence and intimidation [WP report]. Earlier in December, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] urged [JURIST report] Gbagbo to step down, threatening the use of force if he attempts to maintain power. Also in December, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopted a resolution [JURIST report] condemning recent post-election violence while Ouattara’s prime minister Guillaume Soro [BBC profile] called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to launch an investigation [DPA report] into possible crimes being committed by Gbagbo’s supporters.

Read more detail on JURIST – Paper Chase

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