Côte d'Ivoire

UN's top human rights official calls for end to abuses in western Côte d'Ivoire

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, called for an end to abuses fuelled by impunity in the western part of the country.

Speaking at a press conference at the headquarters of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) at the end of a three-day visit to the country, Louise Arbour expressed her strong concern about the gradual deterioration of the human rights situation countrywide.

Ms. Arbour appealed to the Ivorian president, the members of the Government of National Reconciliation, the Forces Nouvelles, political parties and all Ivorian political actors to immediately apply and respect international guarantees related to the protection of human rights.

She urged the country's political and military officials not to lose sight of their responsibilities as wielders of power, particularly with regard to the protection of populations living under their authority. In this connection, she asked UNOCI to continue documenting cases of human rights violations. She also stressed that Ivorian political and military leaders must be made aware of their obligations under international humanitarian law, and underscored the need to be particularly vigilant about media that disseminate hateful propaganda.

During her stay in Côte d'Ivoire, where she arrived on Wednesday night, Ms. Arbour had meetings with the President, Prime Minister, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, ministers of justice, human rights and foreign affairs, leaders of the Forces Nouvelles, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the area of human rights.

Mentioning the various discussions she had with these officials, she expressed concern about the gradual militarization of administration in the area under governmental control and about the lawlessness in the north of the country.

Referring to a brief visit she paid on Friday to the western locations of Fengolo, Guitrozon, Duekoué and Guiglo, Ms. Arbour recalled that the attacks by armed men against Guitrozon and Petit-Duekoué in early June took place just a few hundred metres from an outpost of the Ivorian security forces. She stressed that the responsibility for protecting populations in that zone, which is under governmental control, lay first and foremost with the Ivorian State.

Asked about the existence of a confidential UNOCI report on the events in Guitrozon and Petit-Duékoué, Ms. Arbour reiterated that there was no official report, as had already been stated by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire, Pierre Schori.

She recalled that UNOCI had asked the Ivorian authorities to investigate the attacks and she called on the press to avoid disseminating unverified information.

In this connection, she disclosed that the Ivorian president had informed her during their meeting that he had asked the Gendarmerie, which is in charge of the investigation into the attacks, to contact UNOCI on the matter shortly.