Friday, February 25, 2011

Cote D'ivoire: Human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire getting worse

Ivorians injured during a march in December 2010 arrive at UNOCI Headquarters for treatment

A new United Nations report highlights an ongoing pattern of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, abductions and excessive use of force, in Côte d’Ivoire since the November election and warns that the situation is only getting worse.

“With the political stalemate now going into the third month, the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire is becoming more precarious,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, states in her report on the human rights situation in the West African nation.

The report, which was commissioned by the Human Rights Council and covers events up to 31 January 2011, documents a trend in rights violations, with almost 300 people killed, most as a result of extra-judicial killings committed by elements of the security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.

The outgoing president refuses to leave office despite opposition leader Allasane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the 28 November presidential run-off. The election was meant to be the culminating point in reunifying the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.

The rights violations cited in the report include extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, excessive use of force by security forces and destruction of property committed by the security forces and individuals, and incitement to violence by state television.

It shows that most of the serious violations are perpetrated in the areas under the control of Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters, mainly in the southern and western regions and in the commercial capital of Abidjan. It also notes that some incidents are committed in the areas controlled by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.

In addition to the deterioration of the human rights situation, Ms. Pillay also voices her concern about the obstructions to the movement and operation of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and its Human Rights Division, and attacks on UN staff.

She calls on all parties, particularly Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters, to cease infringements of human rights, to allow the independent investigation of violations and to cooperate with the UN for the protection of civilians.

In a related development, UNOCI expressed concern over skirmishes today between the national armed forces and the Forces Nouvelles in the western Dix-huit Montagnes region.

The mission’s spokesperson, Hamadoun Touré, told reporters in Abidjan that the clashes could lead to wider armed conflict and a violation of the existing ceasefire. He also said there had been rising violence in certain neighbourhoods in Abidjan between the military and demonstrators, with the use of heavy weapons and deaths reported.

In addition, UNOCI’s Human Rights Division is reporting that a total of 315 people have been killed since mid-December. “The division is carrying out inquiries into these incidents and in this regard, UNOCI reiterates its conviction that violence cannot be the solution,” he added.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, reported that health, agriculture, education and the economy have been severely affected by Côte d’Ivoire’s post-electoral crisis.

An assessment by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations released today shows that in the western region of the country, close to 90 per cent of qualified medical staff and the majority of teachers have stopped going to work.

A shortage of essential medicine and the absence of disease surveillance mechanisms have raised the spectre of a serious health crisis for thousands of people in the area, according to the assessment.

In the western region of Moyen Cavally and Dix-huit Montagnes, some 180,000 children have still not resumed school since the crisis erupted two months ago. Throughout the country, some 800,000 children are missing out on education.

“The impact of the post-electoral crisis on civilian populations is severe and goes beyond displacement,” said Ndolamb Ngokwey, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Côte d’Ivoire.

“I call on all the concerned parties to spare the vital sectors of health, food security, nutrition and education of the consequences of the crisis. There is an urgent need from the conflicting parties and international donors to support emergency aid programmes,” he added.