UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: Killings, torture and rape go unpunished on both sides of the front line
ABIDJAN, 13 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - More human rights violations including summary executions, politically motivated arrests, torture and rape are taking place across war-torn Cote d’Ivoire according to a UN report released on Thursday.
The report came as the UN Security Council opened a special meeting on Cote d'Ivoire in New York.
Spanning a three month period from June 2005, the report found that the human rights situation in the one time bastion of stability and economic success, continue to raise alarm.
“There is definitely a lack of improvement in the human rights situation as more and more violations are taking place,” UN human rights chief Simon Munzu told IRIN. “The level of violations we observe is still so high that we continue to be concerned.”
Things took a serious turn for the worse in the cocoa-growing western region, where in late May and early June, a spate of ethnic-motivated revenge killings left some 70 people dead and tens of thousands of villagers temporarily displaced.
Women and children were among those disemboweled and beheaded in the violence. And with tensions unresolved, the risk of more killings remains, Munzu warned.
Violations were reported in both the government-controlled south and rebel-held north, as well as from within the so-called zone of confidence, which is monitored by some 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers who keep the warring armies apart.
Though patrolling peacekeepers make arrests, when the criminals are handed over to the respective rebel or government authorities they are typically released without charges or punishment, according to the UN.
“This situation has contributed to maintaining a sense of total impunity among the criminals and a sense of injustice, incomprehension and distrust among the victims and the general population,” the report said.
The UN human rights division has urged the government to set up temporary local courts in the confidence zone to combat the sense of impunity reigning there.
But the situation in the government controlled south is no better. In late July, unidentified attackers opened fire on a police station in the government-controlled town of Agboville, killing several members of the security forces.
These outbreaks of violence sparked a wave of politically motivated arrests, beatings and detentions, the report says, while security forces have increasingly carried out summary executions of thieves in the main city of Abidjan in a bid to combat rising crime.
In the rebel territories, the overall human rights situation had also deteriorated as suspected government spies faced summary executions, prolonged detention or torture by New Forces fighters.
Under a series of peace accords signed over the last three years, thousands of pro-government militias have been identified for disarmament.
But the report points out a striking parallel between such militias and the gangs of traditional hunters known as Dozos that roam the north of the country. Both groups commit serious human rights violations “with total impunity as criminal investigations …never result in anything or are never even started”.
The presence of militia on both sides of the dividing line could “perpetuate the Ivorian crisis”, the report warns: “It’s on this level that international justice should immediately tackle the crimes committed in Cote d’Ivoire.”
Ivorians should have been heading to the polls on 30 October for peace-sealing elections, but last month that date was declared impossible by UN Secretary general Kofi Annan due to the intransigence of the warring parties, he said.
Sexual violence against women and girls, including rape, forced marriage and genital mutilation, is on the rise particularly in the northern rebel town of Korhogo.
And in poor areas married women are increasingly turning to prostitution to make ends meet, according to the report.
It also emerged that a network of human traffickers in Cote d’Ivoire is using middlemen to lure village girls from Nigeria with the promise of work as street vendors. Once arrived, the girls are forced to become sex workers, the report said.
The UN mission had so far helped four such girls return home to Nigeria.
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