UN: 26 killed in Ivory Coast in last month

AP News
Posted: Aug 12, 2011 7:04 AM

The United Nations says 26 people were killed in the last month in Ivory Coast and that residents blame most of the killings on forces loyal to the president, who was sworn into office in May amid promises to guide the nation to recovery after months of postelection violence.

Local U.N. Human Rights Chief Guillaume Ngefa said Thursday that the killings happened in parts of the country loyal to former strongman Laurent Gbagbo. He says a 17-month-old child was among those killed.

He said that in the west, a pro-Gbagbo tribe attacked and killed locals. In other areas the U.N. reported deadly clashes between forces for President Alassane Ouattara and local youths. The U.N. also said armed robbers were killed in what appear to be acts of vigilante justice.

Presidential spokesman Alain Kakou said he did not know about the killings and declined to comment further.

Ngefa said regional U.N. offices also received more than 100 reports of human rights violations in the past month, including 85 arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions, along with cases of extortion and racketeering. He also said eight mass graves had been found in July in Abidjan, the economic hub, but that the number of bodies in the graves had not counted.

He said 11 cases of rape and genital mutilation were also reported, primarily in Duekoue, a Western city where a massacre took place over several days at the end of March. Amnesty International said in a May report that the killings were carried out by forces loyal to Ouattara.

"The human rights situation in the country remains precarious," he said.

Gbagbo's refusal to cede power after losing a November poll plunged the country into months of violence that killed thousands. He was arrested in April by forces loyal to Ouattara.

Thursday's account from the U.N. follows other reports that have accused forces loyal to Ouattara of abuses during the postelection crisis and after his inauguration.

A July report by Amnesty International accused Ouattara's Republican Forces of continuing to carry out violence and intimidation against ethnic groups perceived as having supported Gbagbo. A different report by Human Rights Watch released in June alleged that forces loyal to Ouattara killed up to 149 people believed to be Gbagbo supporters.

And an Associated Press report in July documented a slew of brutal killings the day after Ouattara's inauguration in an area loyal to Gbagbo near Liberia's border.

Ouattara has said that all who have been found to have committed atrocities would be punished, regardless of their affiliation.

Habiba Coulibaly, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office, told the AP on Thursday that anyone found guilty of atrocities would face punishment.

"If their guilt is established in the commission of any infraction, yes," she said.

Ngefa, the U.N. official, also said the U.N. will work with a newly appointed human rights team in the Ministry of Defense "so that disciplinary, administrative and judicial action be taken against elements of (pro-Ouattara forces), to put an end to impunity."

Gbagbo and his wife are in custody and have not been charged. Earlier this week Gbagbo's son and 11 others were charged over their postelection activities. No member of Ouattara's group has been charged.