Côte d'Ivoire

As more killings come to light in Côte d'Ivoire, Pillay welcomes President Ouattara's commitment to bring those responsible to justice

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GENEVA – UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Friday condemned the series of vicious attacks on civilians in Côte d'Ivoire after the discovery on Thursday of a hundred more bodies in three towns in the west of the country, including the body of a woman with a baby strapped to her back.

"The reports that the UN human rights team in Côte d'Ivoire are sending back are utterly horrifying," she said. "They are finding more bodies every day. Yesterday alone, they found 118 bodies in the three towns of Duékoué, Blolequin and Guiglo in the west of the country. The situation in Abidjan is also appalling – and because of the continued fighting and extreme insecurity we have been unable to assess the full extent of the violations there in recent days."

One of Pillay's top officials, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic, who is currently in Abidjan, on Thursday met with President Alassane Ouattara and his ministers of justice and health and stressed the need to act immediately to prevent further violations from occurring. The President made a commitment to call on his supporters to refrain from violence and to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as to cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry already set up by the Human Rights Council.

On Thursday evening, the President appeared on national television and urged his supporters – and all other Ivorians -- to refrain from committing crimes or acts of vengeance, and said that those who had done so would be punished.

Pillay welcomed President Ouattara's statement and his commitment to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and urged him and his new administration to redouble their efforts to halt all killings and human rights violations. "The first priority is to do everything possible to stop further killings and violations," Pillay said. "But equally important is to end impunity in Côte d'Ivoire. So the President's commitment to punish those responsible for all the hideous crimes that have been taking place in Côte d'Ivoire, irrespective of whom they support politically, and to make a serious effort at bringing about reconciliation in this sharply divided land are necessary."

A UN human rights team investigating reports of violations in the west of the country on Thursday reported that 15 more bodies had been found in Duékoué in the aftermath of a massacre that occurred in the Carrefour area of the city on 28 and 29 March, taking the total number of bodies discovered as a result of that one incident to 244. Most of the victims found so far were reportedly male members of the Gueré ethnic group and were found wearing civilian clothes. Some were burned alive and some bodies were thrown down a well. The killing may have been a response to an earlier mass killing in the Duékoué-Guiglo area, in mid-March, that is believed to have resulted in the deaths of around 100 members of the Dioula ethnic community.

West of Duékoué, in the small town of Blolequin, the team found 40 bodies, including those of two women, one of whom had a baby, also dead, strapped on her back. The team reported that the town had clearly been looted and was deserted. In Guiglo, the team found another 63 bodies, including a number people reportedly from other West African countries. A grave with five bodies was also found in the village of Krikorea 1, near Daloa, on Wednesday.

"Even before the results of the disputed presidential elections had been announced in December, I had warned both candidates that they may be held accountable for their supporters' acts of violence," Pillay said. "Since then, we have seen violations of a shocking nature and frequency, including the shelling of a market, the cold-blooded murder of women peacefully protesting, the use of heavy weaponry against civilians and innumerable acts of violence, looting, extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances and incitement to violence by state television."

"Some of these violations may amount to crimes against humanity," she added.

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OHCHR Country Page – Côte d'Ivoire: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CIIndex.aspx

For more information or interviews, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 or rcolville@ohchr.org ) or press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org )