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April 1, 11

NEWS / Cote d Ivoire: UN urges restraint amid reports of abuses by pro-Ouattara forces

1 April 2011 – The United Nations human rights office today urged forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally-recognized president of Côte d’Ivoire, to show restraint after reports suggested they have been committing serious rights violations during their advance towards the country’s commercial capital of Abidjan.

Troops supporting Mr. Ouattara reportedly appear poised for a final push to oust Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to step aside following his defeat in the UN-certified presidential election held in November.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told a news conference in Geneva of having received “unconfirmed but worrying” reports of human rights violations committed by the pro-Ouattara group known as Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) during their advance towards Abidjan.

“Reports suggest they have engaged in looting and extortion, as well as serious human rights violations such as abductions, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of civilians,” he stated.

The Invisible Commando group, which has been fighting against the forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, is also reported to have continued to commit abuses inside Abidjan, he added.

Meanwhile, pro-Gbagbo forces have also continued to commit violations on a daily basis, including the killing of two civilians who were reportedly burnt alive by pro-Gbagbo militiamen in Gagnoa, Mr. Colville noted.

Yesterday Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his concern about the rising violence, stressing it was essential for all sides to the fighting to meet their responsibility to avoid harming civilians.

“Those responsible for inciting, orchestrating or committing human rights violations will be held accountable under international law,” he said in a statement issued by his spokesperson, adding that all parties must allow aid workers immediate access to people in need.

Nearly 500 people are confirmed to have died as a result of the post-election violence, which has also displaced up to 1 million people, many of whom have fled to neighbouring countries.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that surging violence in Côte d’Ivoire is pushing more refugees eastwards into Ghana, with over 1,500 Ivorians entering the country this week after fleeing fresh fighting in their country.

“Several of the refugee families told UNHCR they fled due to fear of violence while some had witnessed or experienced violence in their communities,” Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the agency, told the same news conference in Geneva.

Most refugees in Ghana are currently accommodated in host communities. Some 1,700 of them are also staying in a new camp set up by UNHCR and the Ghanaian authorities in Ampain, 55 kilometres from the Elubo border point.

This week’s wave of arrivals brings to over 5,000 the estimated number of Ivorian refugees now in Ghana. The number of Ivorians seeking refuge in Liberia continues to rise as well, adding to the more than 150,000 that have been registered there since the crisis began in late November.




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