Côte d'Ivoire

High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses grave concern over situation in Ivory Coast

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello today expressed grave concern over the growing violence in the Ivory Coast, condemning "death squad" activity and the propaganda carried by some national media aimed at inciting war and encouraging hatred and xenophobia.
The High Commissioner reminded all concerned that grave human rights violations are punishable as international crimes and declared his readiness to advise the Secretary-General to seize the Security Council of such crimes if needed. He backed the Council's call last Wednesday urging all the parties, including the Government, to take all necessary steps to prevent further violations of human rights, in particular against civilians, regardless of their origin.

Echoing the 24 October statement by the Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights on racism and on freedom of opinion and expression, the High Commissioner underlined that international human rights treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, expressly prohibit all incitement to hatred and discrimination based on national, racial, ethnic or religious origin.

Mr. Vieira de Mello called on the country's authorities and rebel movements to take all necessary measures, with the assistance, if needed, of the United Nations and the Commission on Human Rights in particular, to put an end to the violence and to punish those responsible.

The High Commissioner also underlined the essential role of neutral, independent and impartial media in national reconciliation, as set out in the Programme of Government and National Reconciliation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement of last month, and in the recommendations of the recent United Nations human rights mission to Ivory Coast. He echoed the Security Council in calling on all Ivorian political forces to implement the Agreement fully and without delay and in welcoming the deployment of ECOWAS forces and French troops with a view to contributing to a peaceful solution of the crisis and to the implementation of the accord. He was heartened by the Council's authorization to ECOWAS and the French forces to ensure, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the Ivorian Government of National Reconciliation, the protection of civilians immediately threatened with physical violence within their zones of operation.