UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Ivory Coast Doudou Diene on Wednesday called on all Ivorians and the international community to maintain their support [press release] in the wake of the recent killing of seven UN peacekeepers, eight civilians and one Ivorian soldier. The peacekeepers, who were serving with the UN Operation in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI) [official website], were killed [UN News Centre report] last Friday near the border town of Tai in southwestern Ivory Coast [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] while on patrol. They were ambushed by unidentified armed elements. The UN Security Council [official website] has condemned [press statement] the attack and urged the government of Ivory Coast to identify and bring the perpetrators to justice. The same call was echoed [official statement] by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile]. Diene reiterated their pleas:
This attack, through its magnitude, constitutes a major challenge for the Ivorian people and the international community. The Ivorian people, despite the sense of insecurity created by this attack, should respond by renewing its commitment to national reconciliation, strengthening democratic pluralism, the impartiality of the justice system and the economic and social recovery of the country. The authorities across the border should work together to prevent cross-border raids and attacks on the population as well as to conduct investigations to identify, arrest and prosecute the alleged perpetrators of these acts. I call on the international community to speed up the adjustment of the arms embargo in order to enable the Ivorian Government to respond proportionately to threats to the security of the population and to ensure that its security forces remain committed to upholding human rights.The UNOCI began its investigation with the cooperation of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) [official website].
Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that since July 2011 at least 40 people including women and children have been killed during cross-border attacks on Ivory Coast villages by armed militants in Liberia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The continuing prevalent violence in Ivory Coast has been subject to criticism by international human rights groups. In February HRW expressed concern [JURIST report] over the flawed investigation into the post-election violence and advocated six-month extension of the probe. Another concern was that all 17 members of the investigating commission were chosen by President Ouattara creating possibility of bias in the investigation. During the same month, International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] was granted permission [JURIST report] to expand his investigation of war crimes in the Ivory Coast to incidents dating back to 2002.