Côte d'Ivoire

UN human rights team heads to alleged mass grave site

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6 May 2011 – A United Nations human rights team is investigating the reported killing earlier this week of at least 40 people in the Yopougon district of Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, Abidjan, and is due to visit an alleged mass grave there today, according to a spokesperson.

At the same time, the independent international commission of inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the alleged abuses and rights violations committed in Côte d’Ivoire following the 28 November 2010 presidential elections has arrived in the country.

Nearly 500 people are confirmed to have died and up to 1 million have been displaced as a result of the post-election violence that was precipitated by Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step aside following his defeat to Alassane Ouattara in the UN-certified polls – a crisis that finally ended last month with Mr. Gbagbo’s surrender.

“The Human Rights Division of UNOCI [UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire] has received allegations on the existence of a mass grave as well as the possible killing of civilians in Yopougon by both sides,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.

He added that a human rights special investigation team from UNOCI is due to visit the site of the alleged mass grave today.

In addition to the killings in Yopougon, staff from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will also be looking into an attack against a Baptist church allegedly carried out by the pro-Ouattara Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) during the post-electoral violence, Mr. Colville said.

The International Commission of Inquiry on Côte d’Ivoire, led by Vitit Muntabhorn, Suliman Baldo and Reine Alapini Gansou, arrived on Wednesday and is currently holding meetings in Abidjan. It will travel to other parts of the country next week.

The team’s mandate is to investigate the facts surrounding allegations of serious human rights abuses committed in Côte d'Ivoire following the November elections, to identify those responsible for such acts and bring them to justice.

Meanwhile, UNOCI personnel are continuing to provide security in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country, as well as regular medical assistance, including through ensuring the availability of potable water and installing sanitary facilities to help prevent disease outbreaks.

UNOCI spokesperson Hamadoun Touré told a news conference in Abidjan yesterday that a UN assessment team is currently in the country to prepare the future role of the mission.