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Côte d’Ivoire: UN experts deeply concerned with gross human rights violations which may amount to crimes against humanity

GENEVA (31 December 2010) – UN human rights experts* are deeply concerned that, according to credible sources, enforced or involuntary disappearances, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and acts of sexual violence may have occurred or may still be occurring in Côte d’Ivoire in relation to the presidential elections.

“When committed in certain circumstances, enforced disappearances amount to a crime against humanity,” warns the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. “Those who have perpetrated such horrendous acts shall be held accountable.”

The Working Group recalls that, according to its General Comment on enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity, adopted in 2009, “when there are claims of practices of enforced disappearances which may amount to crimes against humanity, the Working Group will evaluate these claims in the light of the criteria listed in Article 7(1) of the Rome Statute, as interpreted by international and hybrid tribunals and, if appropriate, will refer them to the competent authorities, be they international, regional or domestic.”

Victims of enforced disappearances, including the relatives of the disappeared, have the rights to justice, redress, truth and adequate reparation. If allegations of enforced disappearances appear to be well founded, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will see that those rights are respected.

Hundreds of persons have reportedly been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Some have been taken by force to illegal places of detention where they are held incommunicado and without charge. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is alarmed at these events and views these practices as heinous violations of international human rights law.

Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions also expresses his deep concern at the number of reported extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. He stresses the importance of the right to life and urges all Ivoirian parties to prevent extrajudicial executions and to take all necessary measures to protect the life of the population. Mr. Heyns also wishes to reiterate the warning against the risks of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity made by the Special Advisers of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect.

The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, is concerned at allegations of acts involving sexual violence committed by armed men: “Sexual violence continues to be used as an instrument of war, and women and girls are left without protection.” Ms. Manjoo calls on all parties to do their utmost to prevent the perpetration of sexual violence, address any act of sexual violence and offer judicial remedies to the victims.

Persistent and effective measures should be undertaken to have all allegations of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that may have occurred in the context of the 2010 presidential election, promptly and impartially examined by the competent authorities, notes the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez. Determined measures should be taken to hold those responsible who encourage, order, tolerate or perpetrate acts of torture and to have them brought to justice and severely punished. In addition, since arbitrary arrests, abductions and enforced disappearances enhance the risk that its victims may be tortured, the authorities are under an affirmative duty to take steps to prevent any and all acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, stresses the present vulnerability of human rights defenders engaged in denouncing human rights violations, and urges all parties to respect their legitimate work.

The UN experts highlight that they are ready to fully cooperate with all Ivoirian authorities and parties to work to establish a State where human rights is central and the rule of law is upheld. They will continue to closely follow the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitkzy (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon) and Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is comprised of five independent experts: the Chair, Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow (Senegal), Mr. Roberto Garreton (Chile), Ms. Shaheen Sardar Ali (Pakistan); Mr. Mads Andenas (Norway) and Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/detention/index.htm

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm

The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan Méndez (Argentina): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns (South Africa): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/executions/index.htm

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya (Uganda): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page –Côte d’Ivoire: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CIIndex.aspx

For media requests, please contact Mr. Guillaume Pfeifflé (gpfeiffle@ohchr.org / +41(0)22 917 9384)