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April 4, 11

NEWS / Senior UN human rights official visits Cote dIvoire amid reports of atrocities

4 April 2011 – A senior United Nations human rights official is in Côte d’Ivoire to assess the deteriorating situation in the strife-torn West African country where forces backing the former leader and those supporting the democratically-elected president are engaged in bloody fighting with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, who arrived in Abidjan yesterday, has expressed deep concern over the worsening human rights situation, as reports of massacres and other forms of brutality against civilians come in from the country’s west.

Forces supporting Alassane Ouattara, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, are on the offensive to oust Laurent Gbagbo, the former president who refuses to step down despite his defeat by Mr. Ouattara in a UN-certified and internationally recognized run-off election last November.

In a phone conversation with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the weekend, Mr. Ouattara denied that his forces had committed atrocities against civilians, saying he had launched an investigation and that he would welcome an international inquiry into the reported crimes.

Mr. Simonovic will have meetings with the Ivorian authorities, political leaders and civil society. He will also have meetings with the representatives of the international community, the UN system and the diplomatic corps. He also plans to go on field visits.

He will also take the opportunity to remind all parties to the Ivorian conflict of their individual and collective responsibility to ensure that international human rights law and humanitarian law are respected. He will urge them to immediately take necessary measures to protect civilians, especially women and children, and put an end to all human rights abuses.

On Friday, the UN independent human rights experts warned on the serious human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire, saying abuses included enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, killing and maiming of children, and sexual violence.

They said that what is happening in the country may be tantamount to international crimes, of which the International Criminal Court (ICC) may take action.

Those speaking out against the reported serious human rights violence in Côte d’Ivoire are: Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions; Juan Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture; Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women; Chaloka Beyani, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs); José Luis Gómez del Prado, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries; Jeremy Sarkin, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Githu Muigai, the Special Rapporteur on racism; Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.

UN Special Rapporteurs carry out their work in an independent and unpaid capacity and report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.




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