[JURIST] The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] on Saturday reported [press release] the deaths of at least 800 civilians in the Ivory Coast [JURIST news archive] town of Duekoue as a result of intercommunal violence that took place on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the ICRC condemned the violence, which has been ongoing in the area since last Monday: “We are shocked by the brutality and scale of this act. The ICRC condemns any and all direct attacks on the civilian population and reminds the parties to the conflict of their obligation to protect, in all circumstances, the population of the territory under their control.” The ICRC stated that the death toll was calculated by field delegates and volunteers, and warned that they believe there is a risk that another mass killing could occur [AP report] in the area. A UN military spokesman indicated that the UN was aware of fighting in the region, but unaware of any reports of mass killings.
On Friday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged all parties in the Ivory Coast to show restraint [JURIST report]. A spokesperson acknowledged unconfirmed reports that the Ivory Coast Republican Forces had “engaged in looting and extortion as well as serious human rights violations such as abductions, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of civilians” during their advance towards the country’s capital of Abidjan. The violence stems from former president Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power to president-elect Alassane Ouattara who won the November 28 runoff election according to international observers. Last month, the OHCHR called for an independent investigation into post-election violence [JURIST report]. In January, UN officials expressed “grave concerns” [JURIST report] regarding the post-election violence, cautioning that genocide could be imminent.