Rights group: mass displacements in Ivory Coast

AP News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2011 7:02 PM
Rights group: mass displacements in Ivory Coast

Hundreds of thousands of people are still too terrified to return home more than three months after the end of postelection violence in Ivory Coast, a human rights group reported Wednesday.

Amnesty International says in a new report that traditional hunters allied with President Alassane Ouattara continue to intimidate certain ethnic groups perceived to have supported former president Laurent Gbagbo. As a result, almost 700,000 people refuse to leave the refugee camps and remote villages where they went to flee the fighting.

The report said the group of hunters, known as the Dozos, carried out targeted killings and attacks in the months following Gbagbo's fall from power, together with rebels who are now integrated into the national army.

The rights group called for the demobilization and disarmament of all irregular fighters. Security throughout the country should be established by the national security forces to provide "conditions that will eventually support the safe and durable return of displaced persons and refugees," the report said.

Ouattara named a new army chief this month, but a half-dozen warlords who formed a coalition to bring him to power still each control sections of the country.

Gbagbo was arrested in April after six months of violence sparked by his refusal to accept defeat in a November presidential election. The United Nations and many rights groups have accused both sides of carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity during the ensuing political standoff.

The International Criminal Court has been asked to investigate. The U.N. and the Ivorian government also have ongoing war crimes investigations. Gbagbo remains in detention without charge in the north of the country.

Earlier Wednesday, Ouattara said during a visit to the U.N. that he is unfamiliar with a specific case of politically motivated violence that occurred on the banks of the Cavallay River in western Ivory Coast on May 22, the day after his inauguration.

The Associated Press reported this week that Ouattara loyalists massacred as many as 47 people in that region, known as a stronghold of political opponent Laurent Gbagbo.

"Once we get the report we will be able to say what happened," Ouattara said, referring to his country's national inquiry.

Ouattara met earlier Wednesday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and was to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday.

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Associated Press writer Anita Snow contributed to this report from the United Nations.