UN warns of possible Ivory Coast genocide

UN warns of possible Ivory Coast genocide

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[JURIST] UN rights officials on Wednesday expressed “grave concerns” over continued post-election violence in the Ivory Coast [CIA backgrounder; JURIST news archive], cautioning that genocide could be imminent [press briefing]. During a daily briefing, UN Special Advisor on Genocide Francis Deng [official profile, PDF] and Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck [academic profile] discussed their fears for the nation and drew comparisons between the current situation in the Ivory Coast and the international community’s failure to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide [JURIST news archive], as well as successful preventive measures in Kenya. The pair echoed warnings they gave last month that the UN has received unconfirmed reports of serious human rights violations [press release, PDF], specifically alleging that supporters and special forces of President Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] are inciting violence among different ethnic groups for political purposes. Also Wednesday, the UN Security Council unanimously authorized 2,000 additional peacekeeping troops [UN News Centre report; press briefing] in the African nation after reports of continued violence between opposing political forces and against UN peacekeepers.

The UN pledged support [JURIST report] for president-elect Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile] in January, committing UN peacekeeping forces to his aid. The UN also noted reports of mass graves [Newstime Africa report], and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned Gbagbo that he would be held accountable for continued post-election violence carried out in his name. Ouattara defeated Gbagbo in a runoff election in November, but Gbagbo has refused to concede defeat or leave office. During the ensuing violence, hundreds were arrested and dozens allegedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment. UN officials have pleaded [JURIST report] for all parties to the disputed presidential election to honor the country’s commitment to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity under the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document [text, PDF]. The Economic Community of West African States [official website] has also urged [JURIST report] Gbagbo to step down, threatening the use of force if he attempted to maintain power. Gbagbo was elected to a five-year presidential term in 2000, but has managed to stay in office by delaying six successive elections.