Côte d'Ivoire

UN Human Rights team to investigate mass grave in Côte d'Ivoire

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20/12/2010

A team from the UN Human Rights Office is in Côte d'Ivoire to investigate reports of the discovery of a mass grave. The continued political stalemate between incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and president-elect Alassane Outtara has taken a violent turn, with more than 50 people reported killed over the past three days. For more on this, UN Radio's Patrick Maigua in Geneva sat down with Ibrahim Wani, head of the Africa Desk at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Duration: 2'43

WANI: We are still investigating. We heard this from different sources, and only this morning we sent in a team that is going to the reported site of the mass graves. They will also talk to individuals around and subsequently follow up, possibly in the mortuary and other places, to find out if there is any truth to this event and the circumstances surrounding the mass graves.

MAIGUA: Say the political impasse doesn't end soon, how do you view the situation on human rights in Cote d'Ivoire?

WANI: I think the worrying thing is that as the situation persists, human rights will invariably be the victim. We are already seeing a very high level of intensification of the rhetoric; some of it is very inciteful, and I think a very high level of division. And particularly worrying is the level of armaments in the country: obviously you have armed individuals, the armed forces for the government in the southern part and obviously in the north also you do have people who are armed, and in such situation human rights becomes precarious

MAIGUA: What message do you have for the people of Ivory Coast: they have gone through an election, they have decided who wants to be their leader, they are in a political limbo at the moment, their human rights are being violated. What message do you have from them?

WANI: I think what one could say here-and this is a message that has been issued publicly; the High Commissioner has previously issued two public statements on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire. First, to the leaders, political leaders in Côte d'Ivoire, she has emphasized their responsibility for ensuring that human rights is protected during this very difficult time, and has reminded them about their international obligations and responsibility and possible accountability as well for any probable human rights violations that occur. I think with respect to the people as a whole, the message that has been sent is also of calm and a peaceful resolution of dispute. Now, obviously, when we are calling for a lessening of the rhetoric, the primary goal here is to ensure that we do not degenerate into violence and that we find a peaceful solution overall.

MAIGUA: Do you foresee the Office of the High Commissioner sending in investigators to catalogue possible crimes against humanity?

WANI: At this point I hope not. But that is indeed the primary responsibility for that rests with the leaders in the country. Côte d'Ivoire has had a very, very difficult history over the last 10 years or so. It would be unfortunate indeed if the conditions worsened to that point where that is the case. There has been reference obviously to previous investigations that have been done in Côte d'Ivoire, so we have some record already of what has transpired in the country. And as I indicated earlier, I think the international community remains committed that there will be accountability for violations of human rights.

PRES: Ibrahim Wani is head of the Africa Desk at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva